SOUTHAMPTON has stepped up its bid to secure a statue of legendary funnyman Benny Hill by organising a fundraising concert.

Civic leaders had planned to erect a statue commemorating the life of the television comic, who was born in the city.

But as reported in the Daily Echo, their proposals were thrown into jeopardy when the statue became the subject of a tug of war between London and two Hampshire communities.

Now city chiefs have stepped up their bid by organising a comedy night to raise funds for the £35,000 statue.

The event would probably be held at the Guildhall and feature top names from the comedy world.

The plans for the concert were announced after it emerged that Teddington in south-west London, where Hill lived for most of his life, was a rival location for the statue.

The entertainer was born in Southampton and made Eastleigh famous by including Market Street in his chart-topping song about Ernie who drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Southampton was initially mooted as a fitting site for a permanent national tribute.

In December last year, TV critic Garry Bushell, fronting a campaign to create a £35,000 landmark, announced Eastleigh to be the front runner.

That appears to have changed, with Teddington favoured for its central location and potential to draw tourists.

Mr Bushell also revealed that support for the statue from Southampton had been poor.

Now a Southampton City Council spokeswoman has said that plans for the concert were under way to secure the statue.

"We are interested in exploring ways to raise funds and have suggested a fundraising concert in Southampton to Garry Bushell," she said.

"We would consider a prominent high street location to secure a maximum visibility, and of course benefit from the million-plus cruise liner visitors from around the world.

"We were unaware that campaigners are deliberating over a new site in Teddington but if we were given the opportunity, Southampton would still be willing to accommodate Benny Hill's statue in recognition of his connection with the city over many years."