Cuts leave council with £740,000 to find in its budget

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FUNDING cuts have left Gosport’s council facing a £740,000 shortfall.

A reduced government grant from £4.8m to £4.1m will see the borough council lose the cash in 2015/16 and an extra £100,000 a year for the next two years. But Labour opposition leader Councillor Dennis Wright said there was little left to cut.

Cllr Wright said: ‘We’ve had to find reductions for the last four years.

‘It’s meant a big reduction in staff and, although they say it’s not, it’s a reduction in services – it clearly is.’

It comes as Conservative council leader Mark Hook previously said the authority was working to become more efficient, instead of cutting frontline services.

But at the policy and organisation board, Liberal Democrat opposition councillor Austin Hicks questioned why the council is to pay for work at Gosport Borough Football Club.

He said: ‘It did take me by surprise, considering the savings that have to be made.’

Work includes spending £37,000 on irrigating the Privett Park enclosure, £82,000 on pitch relaying and £10,000 on a pitch-watering system.

Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Peter Chegwyn also questioned the move – forcing Cllr Hook, the club’s chairman, to declare an interest and leave the committee room.

Cllr Chegwyn said: ‘The council is paying £129,000 this year on improvements for the facilities.

‘Can we know how much they are putting in if we’re improving the facility at taxpayers’ expense?’

Council chief executive Ian Lycett told the meeting the work was for repairs after the clubhouse roof was damaged.

Cllr Chegwyn disputed this, adding: ‘This is nothing to do with the roof.’

He criticised the planned conversion of Crown House in North Street.

It had been rented to surveyors firm Parker Torrington for £6,500-a-year before a deal moving the firm into offices above Cllr Hook’s High Street shop was agreed in 2013.

The building has been left empty without a tenant and earning no income.

Mr Lycett said the plan had always been to convert Crown House into two flats if no firm was interested in the space.

It will cost the council £85,000 to convert the property.

It comes as councillors were told by the borough treasurer that difficult financial times lay ahead. Julian Bowcher said: ‘It’s challenging times.’