Conservative party fined for failing to declare donations which paid for Downing Street flat refurbishment

Tory donor and peer Lord Brownlow covered most of the cost of the Downing Street refurbishment, an investigation by the Electoral Commission has found

The Conservative Party has been fined more than £17,000 after an investigation found that donations which were used to fund the Downing Street flat renovation were not properly declared.

The ruling deals a fresh blow to Boris Johnson amid wider criticism of his leadership following reports of several Christmas parties which breached Covid restrictions last December.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • The Electoral Commission has fined the Conservative party £17,800 over what it described as “serious failings” in the reporting and recording of donations which were used to refurbish the prime minister’s Downing Street apartment 
  • Longtime Conservative donor and peer Lord Brownlow donated £67,801.72 to the Conservative party in October 2020, but only £15,000 was declared in the party’s donation report to the Electoral Commission
  • Lord Brownlow specified that £15,000 of the donation was for an event, with the remaining £52,801.72 earmarked to pay back the party for payments made to the Cabinet Office, which made three payments totalling £52,801.72 in summer 2020 toward the cost of the flat refurbishment
  • The Conservatives registered the money in their financial accounts, but listed it as a “blind trust loan” which the Electoral Commission found to be inaccurate 
  • The Electoral Commission also found that Lord Brownlow paid a further £59,747.40 toward the cost of the refurbishment, although these payments did not breach rules for receiving or declaring donations, as they were paid directly to suppliers

What’s been said?

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Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation at the Electoral Commission, said: “Our investigation into the Conservative Party found that the laws around the reporting and recording of donations were not followed.

“We know that voters have concerns about the transparency of funding of political parties. Reporting requirements are in place so that the public can see where money is coming from, inaccurate reporting risks undermining trust in the system.

“The party’s decisions and actions reflected serious failings in its compliance systems. As a large and well-resourced political party that employs compliance and finance experts, and that has substantial sums of money going through its accounts, the Conservative Party should have sufficiently robust systems in place to meet its legal reporting requirements.”