Minister downplays concerns surrounding PM's flat refurb claiming public 'aren't interested in wallpaper or sofas'

Therese Coffey on Kay Burley at Breakfast. Photograph: Sky News.

Work and pension minister Therese Coffey said the public was not interested in 'some wallpaper or sofas' in Boris Johnson's flat - Credit: Sky News

A cabinet minister has downplayed concerns over the refurbishment of Boris Johnson's official residency by Tory Party donors, declaring the public was not interested in "some wallpaper or sofas".

Work and pensions minister Therese Coffey also said "the right declarations will be made" in due course showing the prime minister is personally paying for the £200,000 refurbishment.

Questions have been raised after both Number 10 and the Conservative Party did not deny reports that the Conservative Campaign Headquarters covered the initial costs of the work, which occurred last year.

It comes after leaked emails showed Tory donor Lord Brownlow claimed to have paid £58,000 to the Conservative Party to "cover payments" the party had already made.

Under current regulations, political parties and MPs must report any donations or loans above £7,500 within 28 days.

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The government is supposed to publish a list of ministers' financial interests twice a year. The last one was released in July 2020.

Appearing on Sky News, Coffey downplayed the seriousness of the allegations saying that people were "more interested in getting on with their daily lives and the actions we're taking to help them" than the controversy surrounding Johnson's flat.

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"I don't think the majority of the British public are in any way interested about wallpaper and sofas," she added.

However, Labour's shadow frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth said the issue "does matter".

"Yesterday he said he paid for it, overnight we had reports that the Tory party head office paid for it," Ashworth said.

"We know they were asking business people to fund it - we need to know whether he's had a loan from somebody, is he paying it back to them, is he paying it back to them with interest, and who he is beholden to.

"Because somebody has funded his sofas, his bedding and the bed he sleeps in at night, we need to know if that person has an interest in government policy, whether that person has an interest in winning government contracts.

"The reason why there are so many questions this morning... is because Boris Johnson still hasn't offered a full and frank explanation.

"And we deserve transparency, because when you're the most powerful politician in the land, we need to know who you are beholden to."

Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds carried out renovations on their home, the flat above 11 Downing Street, last year.

There has been speculation the bill could be as much as £200,000, despite the fact the prime minister only receives an annual public grant of £30,000 to spend on the flat.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight on Friday after a blog post by his former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

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