A row broke out on Wednesday between town councillors regarding how to spend tens of thousands of pounds left unspent by the council in the past year.

A motion had been brought before the council’s Policy & Resources Committee by Councillors Luigi Gregori, Robin Hughes and Lauren Banville to use £50,000 from the council’s underspend to go towards the cost of buying space for allotments in the north of the town.

It noted that “unlike the south side of Andover, where there are available sites, the north side is pretty sparse,” adding that the cost of an acre of land for allotments costs between £15,000 and £50,000. One acre supports around 16 full plots, not taking into accounts paths, parking, or the transformation of the site into an allotment.

However, due to the wording of the motion, it was unclear whether it referred to the 2019/2020 underspend, or that for 2020/2021. An amendment to clarify this by Cllrs Gregori and Hughes was voted down, subsequently followed by the original motion.

Instead, councillors voted to approve the transfer of the £53,519 underspend into its reserves, with the money set aside for contributions to the improvement on Vigo Park, public toilets in the town centre, a proposed new cemetery and street furniture, among others.

This caused consternation among some members of the council, as while the council has the power to provide these services, it has no duty to do so, as that still rests with Test Valley. The only statutory duty of Andover Town Council is to provide allotments.

Cllr Hughes, who voted against the transfer, said that this decision was “taking money out of the pockets of our community and effectively banking it for them for a future day on something that may or may not happen.”

Cllr Gregori agreed, and said that the decision was “disappointing, to say the least.”

“We seem to be putting aside lots of money for things that are not provided by us, the town council, but should be provided by others,” he said. “I’m a bit concerned that the Andover Independents Party, yet again, seems to be putting their particular view of things, and their view of what residents of Andover want, ahead of what we as a town council should actually be providing.”

Cllr Christopher Ecclestone said that he thought it was “important that we represent, in this allocation, the activities that are within our purview. Just because TVBC runs a cemetery doesn’t mean we can’t run one.”

He continued: “Andover Town Council has to grasp the bull by the horns and move forward with the proposals for the improvement of the town, because we can’t wait, we’ve waited too long. We’ve waited since 1974 and the time is up.”

Cllr Rebecca Meyer concurred, saying: “I would like us as a town council to be known for doing things that are aspirational, that are going to be changing things that people can see, as opposed to just controlling about three things which it seems everybody thinks we can control. I think it would be good for us to take on more duties and have more of a voice.”

The motion to approve the underspend transfer passed with four votes for, two against and one abstention.