No10 is tight-lipped over Boris Johnson’s £535 county court debt #englishheadline
Boris Johnson today vowed to overturn a court ruling that he must repay a mystery £535 debt – six months after he was ordered to settle the sum.
After insisting there is no cause for concern over the PM’s finances, Downing Street insisted the claim was ‘without merit’ and he would now be applying for it to be struck out.
The bizarre situation arose after it emerged today that Mr Johnson was subject to a county court ruling on October 26 and it is still ‘unsatisfied’.
The details of the case – registered to his address at 10 Downing Street – and the nature of the debt are unknown.
However, Mr Johnson’s finances have been the subject of swirling speculation for months, with claims Tory donors were approach to help meet costs of a lavish refurb at his official residence and even childcare for his young son.
After hours of confusion and dodging by No10, a spokeswoman said this afternoon: ‘An application will be made for an order to set aside the default judgment, to strike out the claim and for a declaration that the claim is totally without merit.’
Aides to the premier were repeatedly grilled about the county court finding – first highlighted by Private Eye magazine – at a briefing earlier.
They insisted that it was ‘nothing to do with the refurbishment of the Downing Street estate’.
And asked if the public should be concerned about the PM’s finances, a spokeswoman added: ‘You should not be concerned, no.’
No10 sources said the claim against Mr Johnson was ‘totally vexatious and unfounded’.
They said it was a claim of defamation submitted without ‘proper evidence’, suggesting it should never have been dealt with by the county court and the detail is still not known.
It is unclear whether letters were sent to Downing Street and ignored. It is believed whoever filed the claim can be identified, but sources refused to be drawn on their identity.
Downing Street was tight-lipped today after it emerged Boris Johnson has an outstanding £535 county court debt
The register of county court judgements shows the PM was subject to a ruling over the sum October 26 – and it is still ‘unsatisfied’
County court judgments are issued when action is taking by someone who claims there is a debt.
The court can rule against individuals who simply do not respond. Those subject to rulings can ask for them to be set aside later. The issues relate to civil rather than criminal law.
Mr Johnson has been the subject of persistent gossip about his finances, with a huge row over claims Tory donors initially helped finance a refurbishment of his grace-and-favour flat.
There have also been suggestions donors were asked to contribute to the costs of his personal trainer and childcare for his and Carrie Symonds’ son Wilf.
Mr Johnson separated from ex-wife Marina, with whom he has four children, in 2018. They formally divorced in February last year after agreeing a financial settlement.
He became engaged to Ms Symonds in December 2019.
The couple live in Downing Street with Wilf, who was born in April last year.
Despite the PM’s £150,000 salary, he is believed to have taken a significant pay cut on entering Downing Street as he was previously earning large sums for writing columns and giving speeches.
There have been claims that the PM is preparing to rent out a property in London, which could bring significant income.
Mr Johnson live in a grace-and-favour flat in Downing Street with fiancee Carrie and their son Wilf, who was born in April last year
The Electoral Commission has opened a formal investigation into the funding of the lavish refurbishment of the couple’s official flat. Pictured: A design by Lulu Lytle, who is believed to have carried out the refurbishment
The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into the Conservative Party over whether donations were properly reported. Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds could be interviewed, although they are not personally subject to action.
The premier has insisted he paid for the renovations himself, beyond the £30,000 annual taxpayer contribution for upkeep.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said there were ‘deeply concerning irregularities’ about the financing of the No11 flat refurbishment.
‘This is not about Boris Johnson’s personal finances, the record speaks for itself that he has already broken the rules on declaring his financial interests,’ she said.
‘The issue of debt when it comes to the Prime Minister is whatever debt of gratitude Boris Johnson owes to the Tory donor who paid to renovate his flat, and what this donor or donors were promised or expected in return for their generosity.’
Mr Johnson has dismissed the row over his flat funding as ‘trivia’, and it did not stop him romping to victory in Super Thursday elections last week.
But ex-chief aide Dominic Cummings, who is now in a state of war with Mr Johnson, claimed in a blog last month that he had warned the PM that ‘plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations’.
PMs have an annual allowance for improvements to their residence, and sources have told MailOnline that the £30,000 available for 2020-21 was the only public funding used for the refurb.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly dodged when asked whether the extra cost of the work – believed to be £58,000 – was initially paid from Tory funds, merely insisting he had now footed the bill.
Labour has asked the parliamentary commissioner for standards to look into the issues raised and whether any rules been broken, but it a formal probe is not thought to have been launched yet.
Mr Johnson has previously been warned by the Commons standards committee for failing to declare interests.
In 2019, after he made public apologies, he was told he would face a more ‘serious sanction’ if he breached the rules again. That could potentially mean a recommendation of suspension, although it would need to be approved by the whole House.