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Eastleigh Borough Council parties clash over deal on Aegeas Bowl
THE man behind controversial moves to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money buying the home of Hampshire cricket has been accused of being on “an ego trip”.
Eastleigh Borough Council’s Liberal Democrat leader Keith House has driven forward plans to spend £6.5m buying the 999-yearlease of the land and buildings at the Ageas Bowl – formerly known as the Rose Bowl.
Now, less than a fortnight before the local elections in the borough, Tory opposition boss Godfrey Olson has renewed his attack on the scheme, branding it “reckless and far too risky”.
Councillor House has already hit back, calling his veteran counterpart “very out of touch”.
The spat comes after it was revealed that the purchase deal has still not been completed, four months after it was agreed along party lines.
The money, which would come from a borrowing facility available to the authority, has still not been handed over to complete the deal because “complex” transactions need to be finalised.
At the time of the decision a report revealed finances at the ground were “perilous”.
Last night, Councillor Olson said: “I’m pleased it has taken some time because I would think they have been carrying out due diligence to try to secure as much as they can the purchase free of future problems.
“This is the most risky proposition they have come up with and I cannot think why the Lib Dems are doing it, other than an ego trip for the leader of the council.
“I think the decision was reckless and far too risky.”
Cllr House has always maintained the scheme will create hundreds of jobs and boost the economy while helping to secure the future of a world class facility.
A separate plan was also agreed by the council last year to pay for a £30m luxury hotel at the ground, funds for which would be transferred on completion of the building.
He claimed there were “no problems” with the deals and that there were a “complex set of transactions”
which had yet to be finalised.
No time frame has been put on the purchase agreement being completed. He added: “Cllr Olson seems to be very out of touch with how the council is generating wealth to protect services and keep council tax down.
“The hotel project has been scrutinised with great care and is in line with the council’s investment strategy. It is a good solid property investment not like Icelandic banks favoured by so many Conservative councils.”