Gosport Borough Council will pay £36,250 to end lease with leader

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A council will pay thousands of pounds to its leader to get out of a lease renting space above his shop.

The Gosport Borough Council deal, which was done behind closed doors, will see Cllr Mark Hook receive £12,250 for the premium to surrender the lease and £2,000 for legal costs.

He rents out office space above his shop ELJ Furnishing in the High Street to the council for £8,500 a year – the 15-year lease was due to end in August 2019. But now it will end early with the payment of the lump sum.

As reported in 2011, an opposition leader had called for the leader to end the lease – the council cannot end it.

The report says the council can house almost all its staff in the Town Hall and now wants to end the lease.

The report, written by Ian Lycett the council’s chief executive, says continuing the lease will cost £55,500.

Instead the council will now pay an additional £16,000 for physical works, and £6,000 other costs, to the office space and Town Hall.

A source said this will return Cllr Hook’s property to the condition before the authority moved in and adapted the building, which adjoins the Town Hall.

The authority also agreed that one of its current tenants, Parker Torrington, can end its £6,500-a-year rental of Crown House in North Cross Street, before the lease expires in August 2014, so the chartered surveyor can move into the space above Cllr Hook’s shop.

The two lease agreements currently cost the council £5,750 net a year.

The firm has agreed to move into the High Street property only if its rent – to be paid to Cllr Hook – is kept at £6,500 a year and if the council does the work to the leader’s property and Town Hall.

The work includes creating an office and store, putting in an intercom system at the High Street entrance and replacing the front door.

It will also create a lobby and pay the firm’s legal costs.

And it will provide reception, meet and greet, and interview facilities for disabled customers in office hours.

Tory Cllr Hook previously told The News the 15-year lease was sought by the Labour and Lib Dem-led council in 2003.

The council plans to rent Crown House as is, convert it to residential, or sell it.

Cllr Michael Lane, chairman of the Economic Development Board which approved the proposal said the item was commercially sensitive and could not be heard in public.