Government’s new £2.6m White House-style briefing room to open with Boris Johnson news conference

The government’s new £2.6m White House-style briefing room will be used for the first time on Monday when the prime minister holds a news conference.

Boris Johnson will mark the next stage in his roadmap for easing lockdown rules by holding a COVID briefing in the newly built studio in 9 Downing Street.

The government has previously been accused of pursuing a "vanity project" with the multi-million pound spend on the briefing room, which has been installed with the aim of holding daily media briefings.

"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 Number 9," Mr Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters on Thursday.

"They will begin on Monday when the prime minister does a press conference in there."

Under the prime minister’s lockdown-lifting roadmap, the "stay at home" order in England will end on Monday, while outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed – including in private gardens.

Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

Mr Johnson revealed the plans to hold televised media briefings – expected to be similar to the daily White House briefings by the president’s press secretary – in July last year.

It followed the government’s daily news conferences during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, Mr Johnson said the public had enjoyed being given "direct, detailed information from the government".

Number 10 later employed former journalist Allegra Stratton as the prime minister’s press secretary at a cost of around £125,000 a year.

Her appointment preceded a bitter Downing Street power struggle that led to the departures of Mr Johnson’s top aides Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.

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Mr Cain was said to have been the brainchild of the TV briefings but opposed Ms Stratton’s appointment.

She will be expected to front the televised press briefings when they begin.

They had been due to start in early January but were delayed by the introduction of England’s third coronavirus lockdown, during which ministers have held regular briefings from Number 10.

Ms Stratton said on Thursday that the government still planned to go ahead with daily televised briefings.

She said: "Yes, we are but we just don’t know yet when. It is all about hitting milestones in the roadmap."

The cost of the overhaul of 9 Downing Street was revealed earlier this month in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The cash has gone towards structural changes, equipment, lighting, electrical works and internet infrastructure.

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