I was critical of the original decision to award the lease to Paul Lorber in October 2015, and have been quizzical at the failure to conclude an agreement since. It now seems that Pauk Lorber's organisation is trying to get out of the deal it bid for. The agenda reminds us that under the terms of the bid that the "Friends of Barham Library" were awarded the lease:
"The marketing particulars did not offer a rent free period. Nor did the bid submitted by FoBL propose a rent free period for the first year of the term of the lease."
These were the terms under which Paul Lorber was bidding against a rival organisation at the time. Subsequently, the report explains:
"Subsequently, during the lease document preparation process, the FoBL requested a rent free period. The FoBL argued that the Vets had been offered a 12 month rent free period and therefore in the interests of fairness they should be offered the same terms. The FoBL also relied upon the fact that in order for them to operate their library services they would need to incur substantial fitting out costs."
In other words, Paul Lorber suddenly introduced a major variation on the terms he had previously agreed, once he knew the rival bidder was safely out the way. I find it easy to suspect that this was his intention at the time of the original bid. The report goes on:
"Consistent with the Trust Committee’s decision, the Heads of Terms prepared by the Council and dated 19 January 2016, and which the FoBL agreed, did not include a rent free period. However, a
draft lease prepared by the Council in March of this year inadvertently included a 12 month rent freeperiod."
Thus, the FoBL, which is effectively Paul Lorber, agreed again the rent in January, having also agreed to it in October. The March draft somehow or other included a variation which had no authority from the elected councillors either as councillor or as corporate Trustee. Those familiar with Paul Lorber's way of doing things will not be surprised to learn that this led him to make a bold and unresonable claim:
"According to the FoBL the inclusion of a rent free period was not a mistake. They argue that they asked for it and it appeared in the lease and therefore it has been agreed and they have relied upon it in good faith and to their detriment ever since."
The report then goes to some pains to explain that the officers could not vary the terms without going back to committee, and that leases only become binding when both sides agree them. I think this understanding is widely understood by most people, including Paul Lorber and he is just trying it on in order to get money out of the tax payer.
In doing so, he has confirmed my original suspicion that he is not to be trusted. The Committee now has a choice between demanding that he sign the lease on the terms agreed, or concluding that he has acted in bad faith, and is not an acceptable partner for the Council to negotiate with. I would have thought that the earlier bidder, who agreed to pay the rent provided, might well have a case for the Council to rerun the bidding process.