“THERE is no doubt that without a strong Anvil, the brand of Basingstoke becomes weaker.”

These are the words of the chairman of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce which, alongside the Basingstoke branch, has voiced its support for Anvil Arts’ ‘Reverse the Cut’ campaign.

The Anvil Trust - which runs The Anvil and The Haymarket venues - has launched an appeal calling on the council to reconsider its recent decision to reduce its annual funding by £400,000, more than 50 per cent.

Senior councillors have previously raised concerns about the financial management of the organisation, which have been refuted by CEO Matthew Cleaver in wide-ranging interviews with this newspaper.

In an open letter, council leader Ken Rhatigan and deputy Simon Bound urged the Anvil to “urgently invest its energy” in preparing a robust business plan.

Now, the town’s business networks have joined the ongoing fight to persuade the borough council to change its mind.

Barry Smith, chair of the Basingstoke Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are very concerned about the impact reduced funding will have on The Anvil, the town and wider businesses who depend on the visitors that The Anvil receives. As we look forward to facilities opening up, the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the local economy, with hospitality, retail and the smaller businesses being severely impacted.”

He described the organisation as a “beacon for Basingstoke”, regarded as one of the top five venues of its kind in the country, which contributes £2.4 million to Basingstoke’s economy as well as offering multiple community outreach initiatives.

“The cut will put this in jeopardy,” he said.

Ross McNally, chief executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “The cut will also force redundancies, ticket prices will increase with reduced performances and will impact on local business at a time when it needs the support of the Council.”

He continued: “There is no doubt that without a strong Anvil, the brand of Basingstoke becomes weaker.”

The two networks said they will be urgently asking Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to reverse the decision “without delay”.