THE first award of the evening resulted in a double triumph for a business that has been growing and prospering year on year.

Basingstoke College of Technology won the Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Clydesdale Bank, for the second year running, in recognition of its ongoing commitment to the local community and more than 1,300 businesses.

BCOT has become one of only a few colleges in the country - and one of only two in Hampshire - to receive the Action for Business kitemark from the Government's Learning and Skills Council.

This coveted business accreditation reflects the college's success in providing services that respond to the needs of local employers.

About 10,000 students now go through the doors of the college, in Worting Road, Basingstoke, every year, and it is one of the town's biggest employers, with more than 650 staff.

Announcing the award, host Maggie Philbin said: "This award is going to an organisation which has demonstrated year-on-year growth, a commitment to health and safety, and really represents Basingstoke.

"It plays a very active role in ensuring that Basingstoke is a vibrant and skilled town in which to work, live and play."

Delighted BCOT principal Judith Armstrong accepted the award on behalf of the college. Speaking afterwards, she said: "I am just absolutely delighted, especially for the team, because they work so hard and are so enthusiastic, so this is a real way of recognising what they do.

"This award is particularly important because we have got the two centres of vocational excellence now, which are just so important to the town and we really feel they will benefit everybody."