BASINGSTOKE needs to break away from Hampshire County Council and take control of its own public services.

That is the message from a senior councillor who said he is fed up of the town playing second fiddle to Winchester when it comes to civic chiefs dishing out funding.

Councillor Andy McCormick said the upper-tier authority, responsible for a multi-million pound budget and services such as schools, roads and public health, has a record of cutting services in Basingstoke and spending the money elsewhere in the county.

Winchester-based Hampshire County Council insisted it needed to close libraries in South Ham and Odiham last year to save money. But less than a year later, it has announced a £500,000 investment in Winchester library.

HCC said it was a “one-off investment” and the new partnership with Hampshire Cultural Trust is “directly linked” to budget cuts.

The education system in Basingstoke has long been another source of contention with the town promised a new secondary school for Manydown which is yet to be realised.

Additionally, HCC closed Fort Hill school in Winklebury in 2018 without a replacement.

Speaking to The Gazette, Cllr McCormick, the Labour leader on the borough council, said he would be pushing for Basingstoke to become a unitary authority and take over the services provided by HCC.

He said: “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.”

Around two-thirds of the council tax paid by residents in Basingstoke and Deane goes to Hampshire County Council.

The debate has returned to the fore after Hampshire County Council announced it would be spending more than half a million pounds to upgrade Winchester library.

The money, a capital investment of £515,000, will see Winchester Discovery Centre transformed into a “major new cultural hub”.

It 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 in 2022.

But the announcement comes less than a year after South Ham library was one of eight across the county to close in sweeping cuts valued at £1.76 million.

One South Ham ward councillor called the move a “kick in the belly” to the library’s former users and employees.

Cllr Gary Watts told The Gazette: “It is quite unbelievable that they find money for Winchester library whilst they close South Ham. It is all quite sickening really.”

Speaking about his support for a new Basingstoke unitary authority, Cllr McCormick continued: “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.”

Responding, a HCC spokesperson 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.”