A SPECIAL panel of councillors will have a key say on whether Basingstoke Live happens in 2013.

Councillor Elaine Still, the Cabinet chief tasked with the final say on whether Basingstoke Live will go ahead, has opted to set up the special committee to investigate the issue before making her final decision.

Cllr Still, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Cabinet member for communities, sport and culture, has authorised setting up a members advisory panel (MAP) to determine if a 2013 event is feasible in light of financial, and organisational challenges.

Cllr Still has convened a six-strong cross-party panel made up of Conservative councillors Rebecca Bean and Stephen Peach, alongside Labour’s Jack Cousens, Liberal Democrat Gavin James, Independent Chris Tomblin, and UKIP councillor Stephen West.

“When people sit on these MAPs, then the politics goes out the window,” said Cllr Still. “If the evidence from the panel shows that Basingstoke Live can go ahead, then it will.”

The decision to set up the MAP comes despite a motion voted through at full council on December 13 that recommended to Cllr Still “to instruct officers to continue to plan and organise for Basingstoke Live 2013”.

The motion also urged Cllr Still to release cash to cover the previously reported £27,000 shortfall for increased event security.

Speaking to The Gazette, Cllr Still said she chose to ignore the motion because of concerns over the behind-the-scenes organisation of the event.

As previously reported, lead organisers Drum Runners had told the council they did not want to organise Basingstoke Live next year.

But at a public community wellbeing committee on December 5, Drum Runners’ founder Paul Midgely stated they would be keen to enter into private talks with borough chiefs about staying on for 2013.

Cllr Still said: “It is not about the money. The £27,000 is not going to be a show stopper. If all members are happy, and the officers, and organisers are happy with the organisation, then I can make a decision at the end of January.”

The formation of the cross-party panel comes amid mounting pressure on the Conservative-led administration to save the threatened two-day music festival in War Memorial Park from the axe.

It had been proposed to scrap the 2013 event and “investigate” the possibility of a new music event in 2014. Since the proposal first emerged in November, there have been calls to save the annual event.

On December 5, nearly 100 people turned out for an hour-long musical protest outside the council’s Civic Offices on London Road.

A petition was launched online by Brookvale and Kings Furlong Labour councillor Jack Cousens, which gathered 1,022 signatures. At full council last month, the petition was formally submitted by 25-year-old Tanya Freke, from Popley.

Addressing councillors, she urged them to save the popular event, which has attracted up to 50,000 people across the weekend.

“Basingstoke Live is a single event in the year that creates pride in people for a town which you live in,” she said. “To take away that pride creates disinterest and a disconnection with the place you are living.”