THE council has been criticised for ‘lack of commitment’ to sports facilities in the town, after it failed to include them in its recently-approved financial strategies.

At a meeting of full council on Thursday (February 25), the administration’s 2021/22 budget and capital investment strategy were both approved by members - but some raised concerns about the lack of inclusion of facilities important to town residents.

Cllr Tony Jones (Labour, Buckskin) said it was “strange” to see a lack of commitment to help Basingstoke Town Football Club and the ice rink within the council’s budget or capital investment strategy.

He said: “It’s one of the things we’ve been talking about this last year or so, it’s very important to our residents across the borough, and I’m wondering why we haven’t got anything in the capital programme to support them at some stage.

“We’re not just talking about a team playing on a Saturday, it’s for the community, and it’s really strange that we haven’t got anything aside for the future to try and help them along. We seem to be kicking it down the road for some later date and what we should be doing is encouraging.

“It would be nice to see some hope at the end of the day that we may be able to do something within a reasonable period of time, and I don’t mean in twenty years either.”

Speaking to the Gazette after the meeting, Cllr Andy McCormick added: “We didn’t see commitment to the Camrose or the ice rink, like the £10m for Ely Lilly at Basing View.

“If the council wants to find money, it can find it, but it’s about it’s priorities. I don’t think the schemes they’ve identified really benefit the people of the Basingstoke. A return to the Camrose, however, would obviously benefit a lot of residents.”

Responding to the concerns, Cllr Rebecca Bean, cabinet member for borough development and improvement, said: “Since the year 2000, more than £6m has been invested in football facilities across the borough by this council, so I do refute any comments around our commitment to football and sport more generally."

She said that that investment in sport and leisure has recently included £152,000 at Winklebury football complex, and Stratton Park tennis court upgrades.

She added: “We recognise the wider benefits of sport and leisure on our residents’ health and wellbeing and how they strengthen communities which is why we have will continue to invest in our facilities. It is important to note that the council does have limited resources and, despite this not being a statutory service that the council has to provide, we have continue to heavily invest in sports and leisure.”

Cllr Bean said the council “remain committed to working with the community football club with their future aspirations” but that its “not at any point to be making any type of commitments.”

However, Cllr McCormick doesn’t think this goes far enough, adding: “Councillor Bean cites all the things she is doing at small-scale, rural sports investment. We in Basingstoke need things on a bigger scale and there are exciting things coming forward.

“There seems to be this idea that the council will have to write a blank cheque! The only reason the council had to help the football club last year was because it needed to move to Winklebury to survive.

“We have a massive opportunity, with all the people taking additional exercise at the moment. We have lots of facilities. The trick is, now people are getting active, to take it to the next level.”