Downing Street’s new White House-style media briefing room has been roundly criticised after it was reported that more than £2.6 million had been spent on the renovations.
Union flags flank a lectern from where the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, fields reporters’ questions.
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 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.”
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.”
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.
Last night Private Eye’s Ian Hislop slammed the government’s new briefing room on BBC’s Question Time.
“It’s a metaphor for an entire year of Covid incompetence” Journalist Ian Hislop says it’s “a ridiculous amount of money” to spend £2.6 million on a briefing room while granting NHS workers a 1% pay rise.
“It’s a metaphor for an entire year of Covid incompetence”— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) March 18, 2021
Journalist Ian Hislop says it’s “a ridiculous amount of money” to spend £2.6 million on a briefing room while granting NHS workers a 1% pay rise. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/3qcEbhjE63
Iain Hislop getting a lot of applause for his take-down of Boris Johnson's new £2.6 million 'Russian-funded' Downing Street briefing room. Mark Carney says he "missed that story". #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/mKgvzjtnUR— Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) March 18, 2021
Always a joy to watch Ian Hislop make politicians look like dorks on #bbcqt— Bazz (@BazzFlashman) March 18, 2021
So that’s “Have I Got News For You” for the chop then…— Buck Frexit! ???? #FBPE #FBPA ElectoralReform (@Beany_1) March 19, 2021
Totally agree with Ian Hislop. Who decided the Specification and prepared the Tender Documents for this work; who decided on the List of Tenderers; and what Tenders were received that resulted in the Best Value Bid of £2.6m being accepted?— Bill McCafferty (@therealbmc1954) March 18, 2021
Ian Hislop bang on the money as always. Sometimes stating the obvious is far more funny (and tragic) than real life.— PaulMak (@pmak27) March 18, 2021