Euro MP Roger Helmer forced to move out of Market Harborough office
MEP Roger Helmer has accused the Liberal Democrats of a political cheap shot after quitting his Market Harborough office.
The UKIP politician claimed Councillor Simon Galton, Harborough District Council's Liberal Democrat opposition group leader, engineered his departure from a £4.2 million business centre in the town.
Mr Helmer, who set up his office in the Harborough Innovation Centre, in Leicester Road, earlier this year, says he had to move back into the town centre last month after Coun Galton complained that a politician should not be using the council-owned complex, which was built to house emerging technology firms.
Mr Helmer said: "I was very happy in that office, but Coun Galton took offence at my presence and I think he went rooting through the small print for a way of getting me out.
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"He made a big point that it was built for start-up businesses, not politicians.
"Technically, he is right. I have to admit I'm not a start-up tech company and a senior person from Oxford Innovations, which manages the centre, came to see me, apologised, but said I would have to leave.
"He was embarrassed about the situation and Oxford Innovations handled it very well.
"Now I've moved back into the town centre to a lovely office in Manor Walk, which is most agreeable.
"This had been my original choice, but Oxford offered me a discount and were very keen for me to move in, so I did.
"The loser here is the council itself because occupancy in the innovation centre is low. I would have been paying £17,000 in rent over two years, but now the council will not get that.
"Now the council loses money on an empty office because I believe Coun Galton wanted to take a cheap shot at a politician from another party."
According to the council, the 53-office centre, which opened just over a year ago, lost £118,000 in its first 12 months – less than the projected deficit of £167,000 – and has never been more than half occupied.
It was part-funded with cash from the European Union and Coun Galton raised the issue that an anti-EU MEP was using a facility funded by the organisation he opposes.
Coun Galton said he was concerned by Mr Helmer using the centre but denied he had played a part in getting his contract cancelled, saying: "Roger greatly overestimates my influence. I did point out my concerns that a politician was getting subsidised office accommodation at a centre designed for business and job creation.
"I didn't request anyone to ask him to leave, but I did not think it right he was there.
"The rules are clear and someone at Oxford should perhaps have spotted this before he moved in."
Matthew Harrington, commercial director of business and innovation centres at Oxford Innovation, said: "It would appear that many of Mr Helmer's comments relate to a political matter and so we cannot comment on those aspects."
Coun Michael Rook, the Tory leader of the council, was unavailable for comment.