Divisions have emerged within Basingstoke's Conservative Party over its decision to cut funding for Anvil Arts. 

Last month, council leader, Cllr Ken Rhatigan, and deputy leader, Cllr Simon Bound, defended signing off an order to reduce funding for the iconic theatre by 50 per cent. 

Now two of their Conservative colleagues have branded the move as "outrageous", with the town's next mayor saying that preserving the town's cultural offering would be among her top priorities. 

Speaking to the Gazette following their re-election to the council, in the Basing and Upton Grey ward, Cllrs Sven Godesen and Onnalee Cubitt cited protection of the town’s leisure facilities, including the Anvil and Haymarket theatres, as top priorities.

Cllr Cubitt, who is the longest-serving representative on the council and in-line to be the next mayor of Basingstoke, told the Gazette that she was “super privileged” to be re-elected.

When asked what her main focus would be for the coming term, she said: “Definitely preservation of the countryside and fighting development to our side of town.”

She continued: “I have huge support for keeping ice in Basingstoke, and for preserving the Anvil, the Haymarket, and the Leisure Park.

“It is completely essential that we don’t preside over a reduction in our offerings to our residents.”

Cllr Godesen added the decision to cut the arts organisations funding was “outrageous” and that he “endorses the idea” that saving the Anvil should be a key focus.

However, he added that “our main duty is to protect the ward” and agrees that countryside preservation is needed.

“We are all aware that there is a need for more housing, but I also feel very strongly that there is no point in spoiling the value of other areas by blocking them in!” he said.

The Anvil saw a £400,000 slash of council funding as part of budget announcements earlier this year.

CEO Matthew Cleaver told the Gazette that job losses would be 'inevitable', while community outreach work and other services the organisation offer would also be put at risk.

However, the decision was defended by senior Conservative councillors Ken Rhatigan and Simon Bound, who urged the organisation to provide a robust business plan.

Since then, a petition has been set up by Campaign for the Arts, calling on the council to reverse the decision, which has so far gained more than 7,000 signatures.