The Communities and Local Government department has declined to confirm to Conference News fresh reports that Chancellor Alistair Darling has appointed Deloitte to handle the sale of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.
A pre-budget report last November claimed there was no public policy rationale for the centre to remain in public ownership.
Moves to sell off the Westminster centre, which boasts conference capacity for 3,000 delegates and an annual turnover of £11m, are thought to have intensified and Opposition spokesman Stewart Jackson MP tabled a question in parliament asking the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make a statement on the matter. In reply, Parliamentary Under-Secretary Sadiq Khan acknowledged that alternatives to public ownership for the QEII centre were under consideration, but said any update would only be provided in the 2009 Budget report in April.
Government plans to press ahead plans to privatise up to ten state-owned organisations, including the Royal Mint and the Met Office, could raise up to £35 billion for dwindling public coffers.
The Sunday Times reported recently that plans to privatise the QEIICC are more advanced than for the other state assets.
The centre has, meanwhile, unveiled its new high-tech media suite, designed to help customers manage their travel costs and reduce carbon emissions by communicating via media links.
Accommodating up to 12 delegates, the media suite is available to hire for a minimum of two hours and includes an internet enabled PC, a 50-inch plasma screen, video conference unit, conference telephone unit and DVD player.
Commercial director at the centre, Jonathan Byrne, says: “It is important that we listen and respond with effective solutions to the feedback we receive from our customers. The media suite is a direct reflection of this.”