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Millions spent on Downing Street media room ‘not wasted’, minister insists

Sophia Sleigh
·2-min read
Downing Street studio (PA Wire)
Downing Street studio (PA Wire)

A Cabinet minister was forced to defend the millions of pounds spent on a plush media room after Boris Johnson scrapped plans for televised White House-style briefings.

Downing Street spent £2.6 million adapting a room in No9 for TV press conferences complete with microphones, Union Jack flags, podiums, cameras and computers.

Ex-journalist Allegra Stratton had been poached from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s office to head up the operation of fielding questions from reporters.

However, last night it emerged that the PM had appointed Ms Stratton as his spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 climate change summit and the regular TV briefings had been axed before they even started.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the PM was “clearly running scared of scrutiny and questions about Tory sleaze and dodgy lobbying”.

She said the money should have gone towards giving NHS heroes a pay rise, instead of a “pointless vanity project”.

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy added: “This is truly the most reckless, wasteful and self-interested government I’ve ever witnessed.”

Meanwhile, East Hull Labour MP Karl Turner quipped: “So Boris Johnson ‘spaffs’ (to use his own vernacular) another £2.6 million up the wall on a vanity project for his political a press secretary who will now never use it.”

Pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance tweeted: “With £2.6 million spent on this briefing room, Downing Street will have a hard time justifying this to taxpayers.

“This project was supposed to deliver transparency, so Number 10 must be upfront about whether money has been frittered away on a facility for vanity videos.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defended the millions of pounds spent on the media room, insisting it was not a waste of money.

The Secretary of State told LBC: “I don’t think the money has been wasted in the sense that I’ve done a number of these press conferences from that room, it’s actually the state dining room in No10.

“It’s not used for much dining but it’s used for many many meetings. It’s not really fit for the modern media communications.

“So the investment that has been made to create that facility will be used by future governments.

“It’s pretty similar to what we see in many other countries around the world.”

He insisted that it would be used for future press conferences, adding: “We saw the Prime Minister do one just a couple of days ago from there.”

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