The county council will spend more than half a million pounds upgrading Winchester library, less than a year after budget cuts forced one Basingstoke library to close.

South Ham library was shut by Hampshire County Council in January after the authority decided it needed to save £1.76 million from the library service.

Chineham library was given a late reprieve after being threatened with closure for months, but it, as well as Basingstoke discovery centre, saw its hours slashed.

Now, councillors have hit out at the capital investment of £515,000 at Winchester discovery centre, with one saying it is a "kick in the belly" for former library users at South Ham.

Cllr Gary Watts (Labour, South Ham) told The Gazette: "It is quite unbelievable that they find money for Winchester library whilst they close South Ham.

"It is all politics at the end of the day. It sticks in your teeth.

"It is all quite sickening really. Closing one library and investing in a library."

The move will see the discovery centre, on Jewry Street, become a "major new cultural hub".

The investment will include the refurbishment of the Grade II listed building "to provide upgraded library facilities and improved gallery spaces, alongside enhancements to the café, toilets and lift".

Day-to-day running of the facility will transfer to Hampshire Cultural Trust from spring 2022.

Meanwhile, Labour group leader on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Cllr Andy McCormick, said that "all we see is cuts" from the Winchester-based Hampshire County Council.

Around two thirds of council tax from Basingstoke residents is used to fund HCC, not including adult social care services, but Cllr McCormick says residents are shortchanged.

"This is just another case of making cuts in Basingstoke and spending the money elsewhere.

"How many schools have they shut elsewhere, when they seem to shut schools in Basingstoke every few years?

"This is the really annoying thing. I am sure that Basingstoke could do a better job of providing these services than HCC.

"I will be pushing for Basingstoke to be a unitary authority. That is the only way we can keep services in Basingstoke.

"There will be many residents who share my view. We pay 70 per cent of our council tax to Winchester, and all we see is cuts and it gets worse year on year.

"They just impose decisions from Winchester and people in Basingstoke don't get listened to at all."

The cuts to the county council's library service saw eight libraries across the county close, including South Ham and Odiham.

Chineham was due to close as well, but instead had its hours slashed, alongside Basingstoke discovery centre.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “This is a one-off investment into the Grade II listed building that houses Hampshire’s busiest library, alongside a range of additional services including gallery spaces, events and activities and a café/bar.

"A significant proportion of the investment will be used to carry out essential maintenance works, including to the public toilets and lifts.

"The new partnership with Hampshire Cultural Trust is directly linked to the recent public consultation that identified the need to make cost savings across the library service.

"The building’s day to day running costs will transfer to Hampshire Cultural Trust enabling the County Council to make medium to long term efficiencies.”

Speaking to The Gazette at the time, the county council's then-executive member with responsibility for overseeing the library service, Cllr Sean Woodward, said that difficult choices were having to be made over the council's spending.

He said: “There are procurement savings that have been tremendous, there are things on agency staff, savings on our property portfolio.

“We spend £1 million per day looking after our older residents in adult social care. If you say to somebody where would you put your priority - would it be say knocking an hour off the library or getting your grandmother out of bed in the morning so she can live a normal life, where would you choose?

“These are very difficult choices and we’ve had to save half a billion pounds per year out of our budget over the last ten years. The political decision is that adult social care is an absolute priority.”