Cherie's £127,000 Changing Rooms

The Prime Minister's penchant for sofa government is well known. But critical MPs have pointed out that the Downing Street "complex" of flats and offices was already handsomely appointed with antiques when the Blairs moved in.

Questions to the Government have established that the money - nearly three-quarters of the price of an average house - has been spent on tablecloths, carpets, lamps and curtains. And the scale of spending on sprucing up the Grade I listed building has shocked MPs.

They question how tens of thousands a pounds a year could be spent on soft furnishings. Perhaps mischievously, they point out that high-quality Egyptian cotton tablecloths, large enough for the Downing Street dining tables, can be bought, on the internet, for as little as £15 each.

Last year almost £30,000 was spent on furnishings for Downing Street, according to a parliamentary reply from the Cabinet Office minister Jim Murphy, with a total bill since 1999 of £127,314. A Downing Street spokesman was reluctant to say exactly how many tablecloths or lampshades the money had bought. "The bill includes carpeting, curtains, lamps and tablecloths. It's a listed building. There is no more information that that," he said.

Norman Baker MP, who obtained the details of the budget, last night compared the bill to the lavish expenditure of Lord Irvine, the former Lord Chancellor, who spent £300 for a roll of Pugin-style wallpaper for his grace and favour apartment, eventually running up a total of £145,000 on curtains, carpets and upholstery.

"Its seems like Lord Irvine's wallpaper was just the start and ever since then it has been a spending spree on soft furnishings at the taxpayers' expense. There is no cheque Tony Blair won't spend at taxpapers' expense so long as it is a blank one," said Mr Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes.

Interior designers who might perhaps have liked a chance to offer their own expertise, yesterday looked over the works via a virtual tour on the Downing Street website.

Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister - better known to television viewers simply as Colin and Justin, the Scottish stars of such TV shows as The Million Pound Property Experiment and How Not to Decorate - are currently refurbishing a house with similar proportions in Glasgow. They broadly approved of the "classic" look achieved by Downing Street's decorators, though there were some things they would do differently.

"On the curtains [red and ruched with golden tassels], what they've done is sensible; it goes well with the scale and look of the place. They're not our style of drapes but if you look up to the ceiling you can see the work up there fits well with them.

"If we were doing them we would have done a straight-topped pelmet with a full drop of fabric. We wouldn't have gone for the tasselling.

"We could create something that looks the same for less money, but you've got to accept that there are some fabrics that cost hundreds of pounds a metre, in which case you are talking about thousands of pounds for each window.

"We've painted our rooms differently - white with an accent colour on one wall. What we like is being able to change with the seasons - then you only have to paint one wall. One of the big buzzes for us is seasonal adjustment.

"A house like No 10 swallows money. It swallows carpets and curtains. You're working with scale - it takes four or five times as much paint as a normal house. Nothing you can buy off the shelf fits. And it's like painting the Forth Bridge: as soon as you finish you're starting again.

"What we'd really like to get a look at, though, is the private rooms that aren't on the website. We'd love to see where Cherie puts on her make-up!"

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game