Images emerge of Downing Street’s £2.6m media room renovation

Sam Blewett
·3-min read

The first images of Downing Street’s new White House-style media briefing room have emerged after criticism that more than £2.6 million had been spent on the renovations.

The images published by ITV News on Monday show the room in No 9 Downing Street has been kitted out with cameras and rows of chairs for journalists.

Union flags flank a lectern from where the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, will field reporters’ questions and act as the face of the Government.

Allegra Stratton
Allegra Stratton (Aaron Chown/PA)

Labour said “we were expecting something a bit more impressive” given the sums spent on the long-delayed project, as revealed by the PA new agency.

The images emerged as the HuffPost website reported that the renovations were carried out by Megahertz, a company owned by a Moscow-based firm that has carried out technical work for state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today.

Ms Stratton, a former journalist, said there were “absolutely not” any security concerns, adding: “Clearly, in a contract like that we take all the necessary measures to ensure the highest standards of security.”

Cameras have been fitted during the £2.6m revamp (ITV News/PA)
Cameras have been fitted during the £2.6m revamp (ITV News/PA)

But shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said “serious questions” were being raised about who is getting “rushed-through” Government contracts.

“And that’s before we even get to why our nurses are getting a pay cut while the Government spends millions on a media briefing room,” the Labour MP added.

“Given how much money Boris Johnson has thrown at his latest vanity project, we were expecting something a bit more impressive.

“The fact the Government seems to have simply brushed this off with no further transparency or assurances on how they’re spending British taxpayer money is deeply concerning.”

Briefing room
The lectern where Ms Stratton will field reporters’ questions (ITV News/PA)

Last week, PA revealed using a freedom of information (FoI) request that the overhaul of No 9 had cost £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

Costs detailed in the FoI response included £1,848,695.12 for the “main works”, £198,023.75 on “long lead items”, and £33,394.63 on broadband equipment.

The revelation came as Mr Johnson faced pressure over the funding of a separate revamp of his official residence.

The launch of the televised briefings had been anticipated as early as the autumn, but in January No 10 said they were being delayed as ministers planned to hold regular press conferences during the lockdown.

A Government spokesman said spending on the briefing room was in the public interest.

“The facilities within 9 Downing Street will be used for daily broadcasting by a number of news organisations requiring one-off capital works, including audio-visual equipment, internet infrastructure, electrical works and lighting,” the spokesman said.

“This spending is in the public interest as the new broadcasting of lobby briefings will increase public accountability and transparency of this Government now and in the future.

“Such spending on maintenance and technical facilities reflects that 9 Downing Street (the Privy Council Office) is a Grade 1 listed building.”

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