Lib Dems criticise Gosport council leader’s contract to carpet the town hall

IN SITU The new carpet at Gosport Borough Council offices. Inset, Cllr Mark Hook's pet and furnishing store
IN SITU The new carpet at Gosport Borough Council offices. Inset, Cllr Mark Hook's pet and furnishing store

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THE leader of Gosport Borough Council has defended taking on a £7,000 contract to carpet the authority’s town hall.

The council paid £7,230 for new reception carpets to Cllr Mark Hook’s company ELJ Furnishing, The News has learned.

Cllr Mark Hook's pet and furnishing store

Cllr Mark Hook's pet and furnishing store

One other firm, Dorset-based office refurbishment company, Kiwi Design, entered a bid but lost out to Tory Cllr Hook, whose quote was the cheapest.

He was awarded the contract in January this year – just weeks before voting to approve the town hall refurbishment as part of the borough council’s overall budget.

There are no rules which say a councillor cannot have business dealings with his own council.

But the Lib Dems have criticised him for taking up the contract and said he should not have voted on the budget.

Cllr Peter Chegwyn, leader of the Gosport Lib Dems, said: ‘It may not be legally wrong but it’s not morally right.

‘It’s wrong that the council pays its own leader to carpet its offices. Council tax payers will be amazed he is getting this money.’

Cllr Hook, who also receives £7,980 a year for leasing office space above his High Street shop to the council, defended bidding for the contract.

He described Cllr Chegwyn’s complaints as ‘mischief making’.

‘I went through the process that everyone else has gone through,’ he said.

‘I was chosen because I was the lowest.’

He said businesses were asked to tender for the work.

‘I was told I was 20 per cent cheaper,’ he said.

‘As a businessman, I should be entitled to tender for the work like any other business. The public sometimes doesn’t recognise we have a living to make as well. And being a local employer there are four or five other families who depend on the work I get for the money they have.

‘Everyone has to submit a form as to how much work we have done for the council. I declare everything I have done.’

The total cost of work carried out at the town hall was £88,025.

That includes £75,870 to the main contractor Kiwi and £4,924 for a new reception counter, as well as £7,230 on carpets.

The council has a contract with a private firm, Parker Torrington, to handle maintenance of council buildings.

This includes deciding on what contracts to go with – a practice criticised by Cllr Chegwyn, who says it makes it difficult for the public to get information.

Gosport’s taxpayers The News spoke to reacted angrily about Cllr Hook’s carpet contract with the council.

‘There should be rules against it,’ said Stephen Davies, 52, of South Street. ‘I know it’s allowed but it just seems wrong.’

Barbara Warry, 59, of Browndown Road, added: ‘I don’t think he should be supplying them with the carpets. He should be ruled out of the deal and things like that shouldn’t be allowed.’