THE fight to save Andover Museum has taken a blow, as Test Valley Borough Council confirmed the Levelling Up funding would not be available to support the institution.

As previously reported, Andover Museum and the Museum of the Iron Age in Church Close will potentially close in 2026, according to Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) which operates several venues in the county.

Hampshire County Council is the trust’s largest funder, currently contributing £2.5 million per annum, but under its current budget consultation, which opened to the public on Monday, January 8, it is proposed that this funding will be cut by £600,000 per annum by 2027.

Despite hinting at the potential closure, HCT's chief executive Paul Sapwell hopes the museum would get support from Test Valley Borough Council, which has been recently awarded the government's levelling-up fund.

READ MORE: Andover Museum at risk of closure due to lack of council funding

However, leader of the Test Valley Council, Cllr Phil North, clarified to the Advertiser that the levelling up grant was strictly earmarked for specific projects outlined in the town centre masterplan, such as Western Avenue development and a new theatre.

"The application did not include the Andover Museum," he said, effectively dashing hopes of a financial lifeline from this source.

However, Cllr North shared the council's continued willingness to collaborate with the trust.

"The borough council has a very good working relationship with the Andover Museum and will continue to work closely with the Hampshire Cultural Trust in response to the current financial challenges it faces. It's important to us that the museum continues to thrive."

SEE ALSO: Andover is the busiest train station in Test Valley

Hampshire County Council, the trust's main financial backer, has also shared the budgetary realities driving the funding cuts.

County council leader Cllr Rob Humby said: “As our costs continue to rise, alongside growing demand for vital local services like social care for children and adults, our budgets remain under immense pressure. We have almost exhausted the funding we have previously set aside in reserves to meet major financial challenges - that usually provides us with a financial safety net - and very soon there simply will not be enough money to go around.

"Delivering local services in future is much harder with much less money available, which is a problem faced by councils nationally, and one which local government cannot address on its own. In line with what residents told us last summer in our budget consultation at the time, we are continuing to press for a better, long-term national funding solution from central government to address these issues, but we cannot sit back and wait for that to happen. 

“Hampshire is in a better position than many other councils, but we know that we need to make some tough decisions and deeper savings in order to find the £132m we need by April 2025 to ensure we can continue to deliver critical services and help protect and support the most vulnerable children, older people and adults with complex care needs across Hampshire."