A media centre intended to provide “thousands” of unaccredited journalists a place to work during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games may not now go ahead according to Sir Simon Milton, Chief of Staff to Boris Johnson.
In August City Hall confirmed plans for a £2.6 million, 24-hour media centre at One Great George Street providing workspaces and live broadcasting areas for over 250 journalists who have not been accredited by Olympic chiefs.
Plans for the centre have been criticised by some London Assembly Members including Conservative AM Andrew Boff who used May’s Mayor’s Question Time to voice concern at the reputed £5.8m cost of providing the centre.
Defending the plans at the time, Mayor Boris Johnson said “My justification [for the centre] is that if you have, speaking as someone with some passing background understanding of the media, that if you leave these creatures to their own devices and you do not provide for them in a systematic way and you do not give them a source of reliable information, then you will be doing the project that you want to explain to the world a grave disservice.”
Appearing before the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee today, Sir Simon warned that cuts to the London Development Agency budget meant the centre might not now go ahead.
Sir Simon told AMs: “The Mayor has taken the view that the unaccredited media centre is an important element of the Olympic project, the government agrees and we are now trying to make sure the government pays for it. If there is no money coming from the government it won’t happen.”
City Hall has repeatedly tried to downplay concerns that major projects will be axed in the wake of coalition government’s spending review which has seen the LDA’s budget reduced to cover only those schemes the Agency is already legally committed to.
Speaking after today’s meeting, Committee Chair John Biggs said: “The uncertainty over the future funding of the London Media Centre is but the tip of the iceberg for the GLA’s budget. The Mayor now has to deal with the hard edge of cuts to London’s budget that could significantly impact on his ability to deliver his priorities for the capital.”