Lib Dems walk out of meeting in row over helping firm

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OPPOSITION councillors stormed out of Gosport’s council chamber over a row about helping a business.

Councillor Peter Chegwyn left Gosport’s council chamber with his party after accusing the council leader of failing to declare an interest at a previous meeting.

Lib Dem Cllr Chegwyn said Tory leader Mark Hook should have declared an interest when a committee he chairs gave hardship cash to Gosport firm LB Physio.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Chegwyn said: ‘Cllr Hook should have declared a financial interest for the item regarding LB Physio because owner Lisa Brown works at Gosport Borough FC, of which Cllr Hook is chairman.

‘On her Twitter page, she says she is a physiotherapist for the club and works with the ladies football club.’

Last month the policy and organisation board agreed to give Ms Brown £3,017 of council cash after her business was hit by a huge rate increase.

It comes after Ms Brown, who was once wrongly accused of hiring a Kosovan hitman to kill Fareham council leader Sean Woodward, was told to pay an extra 367 per cent after changes to her firm’s South Street building rateable value.

Opposition councillors at the committee last month voted against giving any help.

Labour’s Cllr Jill Wright told that meeting they should bear in mind the government is cutting £740,000 from the council’s own budget. She said: ‘The firm’s accounts don’t show a pretty picture. I’m not sure about paying anything at all.’

But speaking at the full council meeting after the Lib Dems had left, Cllr Hook said: ‘We have heard that Lisa Brown is involved with the ladies club, which I have no involvement in.

‘We have to take each case for hardship relief on its merits.’

Tory councillors said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the Lib Dems had walked out as they were not representing their constituents.

Speaking about the decision to award the cash, Cllr Hook told The News: ‘These are exceptional circumstances. The valuation office has increased the bill by 376 per cent, which is scandalous. I believe an injustice has been done.’

A council spokesman said: ‘Councillor Hook told a council officer before the meeting that Ms Brown used to work for the football club.’

Ms Brown said her firm would have to move if the money wasn’t granted.

Six Tories had voted to give the cash while two Labour and two Lib Dems voted against.