CIVIC chiefs are slashing grants for sport and making redundancies as they struggle to cope with the impact of coronavirus.

The city council will cease to fund the Winchester Criterium cycling event, putting its future in doubt, and cutting grants for sports organisations.

Twenty-eight posts, around six per cent of the workforce, will be cut meaning around 17 people could lose their jobs, to save £1.1 million.

Policymakers at the Cabinet agreed the business plan which is likely to see the council tax increase by three per cent.

Cllr Neil Cutler, cabinet member for finance and risk, told the meeting: “No-one could have predicted the extreme effect of Covid. We have had a catastrophic fall in income from car parking and property rents, of about £10m, a third of our budget.”

The Lib Dem-controlled council is looking to cut £3m from its operating costs.

Other increases will see most fees and charges rise by three per cent building control fees rise by 10 per cent, a cut of £15,000 from the small grant fund, the ending of grants for sports and physical activity.

Cllr Cutler said the forecasts are still impossible to make so money will be earmarked from reserves to plug any shortfall.

The working assumption is that there will be a 20 per cent reduction in income so £600,000 has been set aside to act as a ‘transitional reserve'.

That attracted criticism from the opposition Conservative councillors. Cllr Stephen Godfrey said: “I’m concerned that is looking at the short term and not the medium term.”

He warned against selling assets: “You can raise income by selling assets but that would be an error. The use of reserves to bolster the revenue budget must be avoided. You can only spend reserves once. It is not a long-term or a medium-term option.”

Lib Dem councillors said they were both shoring up the council finances whilst still pressing on with objectives such as Silver Hill, now known as the Central Winchester Regeneration, and the development of the Bishop’s Waltham Depot and the new Guildhall cafe, both of which will generate income when opened.

Cllr Kelsie Learney said: “We are facing a very difficult position. We face massive uncertainty going forward.

“We have no way of knowing what the financial position will be in 12 months’ time. All we can do is make a best guess and make prudent provision.”

The Theatre Royal, largely closed since the spring will see a one-off grant of £147,000 to help make ends meet.

The final budget will be approved at a meeting in February.