UKIP Hampshire County Council hopeful Bradley Monk is in favour of abolishing the NHS, it has emerged as campaigning climaxes with voting today.

The candidate for Winchester Eastgate posted on Twitter: “The welfare state is massively bloated. I’d scrap the NHS personally, but that is political suicide.”

His comment comes after Tory grandee Ken Clarke claimed the UKIP candidates are a “collection of clowns” who should not be allowed to set the political agenda.”

Liberal Democrat city councillor Martin Tod, who is also standing in Winchester Eastgate, said: “Since April, county councillors are directly involved in decisions about local NHS services.

“I’ve actively campaigned to protect and strengthen the NHS. I’m very concerned that someone wanting to be a UKIP county councillor would have these views.”

Meanwhile Mr Monk hit out at Winchester Conservatives for claiming he was likely to move away from the area because he is a student. The part-time chef said: “This is an obvious attempt to cost me votes which I find to be disgusting.

“Politics should be about furthering your own policies, not attempting to smear others.”

UKIP are fielding candidates in nearly every electoral division for the first time and are hopeful of winning the party’s first seats on the county council.

Senior Tory county councillor Colin Davidovitz has described the anti-European party as replacing the Liberal Democrats as the protest party on national issues but “with little to offer” on local issues.

The Tories have robustly defended their £100m efficiency savings over the last two years while maintaining high quality services and keeping council tax down.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat’s campaign has ranged from attacks on the county council’s shiny new headquarters and protests against gravel extraction to sitting on £300m reserves while cutting services and jobs.

Cuts include closing Connexions youth centres, two libraries, three elderly care homes and most day centres for adults with learning disabilities.

In 2009, the Tories increased their majority to 51 seats compared to the Liberal Democrats 25 – although one of their councillors defected to the Greens. Labour and an independent councillor each have one seat.