A PLACE to be Proud of Awards host Maggie Philbin has paid tribute to the people of Basingstoke and hailed it as a "fabulous place" to live and work.

The popular television and BBC Radio Berkshire presenter followed in the footsteps of BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine, who hosted last year's awards, by stepping up to the podium on Sunday, July 16.

During her entertaining preamble to the actual presentation of the awards, Miss Philbin told the audience how much she enjoys visiting the town and borough.

She said: "My relationship with Basingstoke began about 20 years ago. However, over the past couple of years, while working for BBC Radio Berkshire, I have got to know the people of Basingstoke better, and have found that it has an engaging and enthusiastic community.

"Basingstoke is a fabulous place to live and work, and I am really proud to be here with you tonight. I am honoured to be invited to celebrate the achievements of the local people and organisations that make this town the success that it truly is."

Miss Philbin added: "Recognising the achievements of our fellow citizens is not only important but it is vital to the quality of our lives and the quality of the lives of those around us. The very fact that we are here tonight shows how much the community, town and borough has to offer."

The awards evening started with a champagne reception on the Lower Floor of Festival Place, where the welcoming address was given by borough mayor Councillor Tony Jones.

Cllr Jones said: "I am delighted to welcome you tonight and to meet so many of the people who have been nominated. The awards are a fantastic way of rewarding those people, places and initiatives that make a difference to Basingstoke and Deane and raise the profile of the borough."

This year saw the involvement of some new, as well as continuing, sponsors, and the creation of some new award categories. In all, honours were handed out in seven categories, and three nominees received a Judges' Special Award.