Boris Johnson is reportedly planning to set up a charity to bankroll Carrie Symonds’ make-over of their Downing Street flat.
The fund would allow private donors to hand over cash for the upkeep of No 11 and other staterooms.
Critics argue this sets up back-door access to the prime minister.
According to reports in the Daily Mail, Johnson has complained the cost of the refurbishment by Symonds was “totally out of control”, running into the “tens and tens of thousands”.
On one occasion he said it was “over a hundred grand”. He also expressed alarm at the cost of wallpaper chosen by Symonds, dubbing it “gold wall coverings”.
Johnson has reportedly approach Tory peer Lord Brownlow to run the charity and is to submit an application with the Charity Commission.
This comes as No 10 defends hiring three “vanity photographers” to stage Instagram-style photoshoots of Johnson and Symonds’s dog.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said the photographers – two civil servants and a special adviser on salaries ranging between £60,000 and £105,000 – take pictures of not just Johnson but other ministers.
No 10 was also left defending Symond’s role in government after a report by a ring-wing think tank alleged Johnson’s fiancée was helping run the country.
The prime minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton gave the claims short shrift, saying there would be no response to the think tank’s call.
She stressed that Symonds was on maternity leave, looking after her son with Johnson.