Downing Street's £2.6 million media room ready for Covid briefings

Credit: ITV News

Downing Street's £2.6 million media briefing room will get its first use next week when the Prime Minister begins hosting Covid press conferences from the new space.

ITV News exclusively revealed photographs of the White House-style briefing room last week, complete with a plush new studio, seating for journalists, official lecterns, four Union Jack flags and a Henry vacuum cleaner.

The project has proved controversial, suffering a number of setbacks and delays at significant cost.

It came in for widespread criticism when the true cost of the installation was revealed in a Freedom of Information request.

The room comes complete with Downing Street's official lecterns. Credit: ITV News/Nathan Lee

Downing Street has confirmed that work on the room in No.9 has been completed.

Labour previously branded the hi-tech refurbishment a "vanity project".

The briefing room will host future government Covid press briefings as of Monday 29 March, when Mr Johnson addresses the nation about the next stage of lockdown easing.

On March 29, further restrictions will be lifted, with the "stay home" guidance removed and limited contact between different households permitted - along with many outdoor activities and sports.

The PM's official spokesman told reporters: "Work on the briefing room in No.9 Downing Street is now complete, so going forward all future coronavirus press conferences will take place over in No 9.

"They will begin on Monday when the Prime Minister does a press conference in there."

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has analysis on the reaction to ITV News' exclusive images:

Mr Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said the government still planned to go ahead with daily televised briefings – the concept that was the main driver behind creating the new media space.

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.

Lobby correspondents, the political reporters based in Parliament, currently have daily briefings with the PM's official spokesman, or his deputy – both civil servants.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton defended the government’s approach to easing lockdown. Credit: PA

But under proposals set out in July, an afternoon session will be filmed at 9 Downing Street, led by Ms Stratton.

As a politically appointed special adviser, rather than an impartial civil servant, she will be able to take aim at opponents as well as defend the government’s actions.

Ms Stratton said: "Yes, we are (intending to go ahead with the televised briefings) but we just don’t know yet when.

"It is all about hitting milestones in the roadmap."

  • Listen to our latest Calling Peston political podcast: