The Times has cited unnamed Cabinet ministers as saying that the scandal over the lavish refurbishment of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's private flat on Downing Street may become a "distraction" in the run-up to the 6 May elections in the country.
One of the cited ministers argued that "for people who don't like Boris it accentuates that", adding, "that's got to be a worry ahead of the local elections".
The warning comes amid an Electoral Commission probe into whether any donations or loans pertaining to the renovation of Johnson's Number 11 flat were improperly declared.
On Monday, the UK prime minister told reporters that "all this kind of stuff is absolutely not relevant to" the election campaign.
"And we're focused on improving our NHS [National Health Service], on making our streets safer, and above all, in rolling out the vaccine campaign and going down the road map in a cautious but we hope irreversible way and delivering change. I know that people want to focus on trivia, but I'm focusing on the issues that matter", he stressed when campaigning in Hartlepool.
Johnson claimed he had "personally" paid for the flat's refurbishment, but declined to clarify whether he received an initial loan from the Conservative Party.
The prime minister earlier denied breaking any rules over the matter, insisting he "conformed in full with the code of conduct and ministerial code".
The claims were preceded by Johnson pledging that he would comply with any Electoral Commission decision related to its investigation into the refurbishment of the PM's Downing Street flat. The commission previously noted that there were "reasonable grounds" to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred following an assessment of the funding of work at 11 Downing Street.
The probe follows UK media reports asserting that Conservative Party coffers contributed to covering the reported £200,000 ($277,400) cost of refurbishing the flat over 11 Downing Street, where Johnson resides with his fiancée Carrie Symonds and their son Wilfred.
The Daily Mail reported in March that Johnson bemoaned the cost of the renovation by Symonds as "totally out of control", revealing to one minister that he was especially alarmed by the cost of the "gold wall coverings" chosen by his fiancée.
A new poll has, meanwhile, shown the Conservative Party's lead over Labour has drastically plummeted from 11 to just 5 points. The survey, conducted by the pollster Opinium for The Observer, also found that Johnson's net favourability currently stands at -6 versus Labour leader Keir Starmer's +8.