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A COUNCIL leader has been criticised for leasing office space to his own authority in the wake of town hall job cuts.

Gosport Borough Council pays leader Mark Hook’s company £7,980 a year for office space above 137 High Street, where he runs a pet shop and furniture store.

The 15-year lease was signed in 2004 but recent job cuts at the council have led political rivals to question whether the extra space is still needed.

Leader of the Gosport Lib Dems, Peter Chegwyn, said: ‘Mark Hook should surrender the lease.

‘We don’t need the space now because of all the staff that have gone.

‘We say he should stop the payments forthwith.

‘I think the public will be angered that the leader of the council is given £8,000 a year to rent space to the council he leads.’

The offices are used by the council’s revenue and benefits department.

As reported in The News, the council recently axed 22 jobs as part of cost-cutting measures.

The job losses came with a warning that further redundancies would have to be considered in the future.

But Cllr Hook said there is still a demand for office space at the town hall despite reductions in staff.

Speaking about the leasing of the office space, he said: ‘It was a deal done back in 2003 when Shaun Cully ran a Labour-Lib Dem administration. The council wanted to get more offices. At the time I had a tenant above my shop.

‘The council asked if he would move out so they could rent the offices.

‘I think it saved them tens of thousands of pounds.

‘I was happy with the tenant who was already in there.

‘This wasn’t something I wanted, it was something the council wanted.

‘We still need that space.’

The lease runs until 2019, with the total amount of rent to be paid by the council over that period in the region of £119,700.

The money is paid to a company run by Cllr Hook and his wife Lynn, which, according to council documents, is called M and L Properties.