WINCHESTER MP Steve Brine has spoken about what he calls the ‘Winchester Challenge’.

The city needs to regain a reputation for competence following the collapse of Silver Hill and Station Approach schemes in the last year.

He said that was to ensure the new leadership at the city council drives through some its big projects so Winchester gets back its good name as a place where things get done. “Big ticket items such as the leisure centre and Station Approach have to move forward now and I am clear the new city leadership need to assert its authority because Winchester is not a great bet for investors right now.

“It is time for all our sakes to face down what a local editorial recently called the ‘sneering cynicism’, often politically-driven in my opinion, which is threatening any attempt to improve the city. I think there’s huge support for that across Winchester.”

He was addressing business leaders at the annual Hampshire Chamber Business Breakfast.

Sponsored by Winchester Business Improvement District, the event at the Mercure Wessex Hotel, was an opportunity for businesses to meet, share experiences, and hear an update from their MP on the national, international and local business scene.

After providing a detailed report which included a report on the current buoyant labour market and a detailed update on the Government’s approach to Brexit, Mr Brine took questions including on rates revaluation, immigration and planned works at Junction 9 of the M3. and how the UK should work responsibly with President Trump.

He later added: “This event is firm a fixture in my calendar and one I really look forward to. It was good to see so many people there, all united in their belief that Winchester is a good place to do business if we’re positive about the challenges we face and don’t duck some of the big issues facing the city such as the availability of commercial space, short-term parking provision and the skills plus productivity challenge facing the UK economy as a whole. I hope my update was helpful in providing an insight into what’s been a big week in Westminster and the national context.”

Stephen Gates, chairman of Winchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Steve has been a faithful supporter and guardian of local business interests and today was an excellent opportunity to hear from him about how the national political scene both drives and influences the local business environment.

“The businesses who attended had a great opportunity to get a real insight into the Government’s key strategic plans, including Brexit (of course!), but as importantly Steve also outlined his key local business imperatives.

“There was real clarity about the need for the city council to be moving forward with supporting local businesses (including Station Approach and the Central Winchester Regeneration programme) and their growth, particularly with almost zero unemployment in Winchester and the 100% local retention of Business Rates in the future. An excellent breakfast update!”

The morning also saw the presentation of a cheque raised for ‘Spare Change for Real Change’, where customers donate spare change to the scheme itself in shops and businesses, rather than giving to the homeless direct. This ensures the money is spent where it is genuinely needed, and the sum of £2,600 was presented at the start of the breakfast.