WINCHESTER civic chief Laura Taylor has refuted allegations that the council used Government money towards the anti-Brexit march in Winchester.

National newspapers have carried the claims that the council raided a pot of £17,000 earmarked to help the council prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The march attracted an estimated 1-2,000 people and was addressed by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable from the steps of the Guildhall on Saturday.

Other campaigners were unhappy that the council allowed the use of the steps, which are council property, for political purposes.

In a statement, Ms Taylor, chief executive of Winchester City Council, said:

“The Guildhall is a public building and its steps have been used as a place of protest and rally for decades by a wide-range of political parties and groups.

“The council decided that to stop access for this rally would be inconsistent with the historical use of the steps as a platform for free speech. This approach was supported by the Conservative administration of the city council.

“No money from central government was used to fund any expense related to the rally.

"The council believes no rules or standards were broken in allowing the speakers to use the steps.”

Government minister James Brokenshire is reported to have written to the council seeking clarification on the matter.

Over the years the Guildhall steps have been used by the Greens (air quality protest), students demonstrating against tuition fees, and local issues such as Save Barton Farm (twice), the Bushfield Camp protest, Winchester Deserves Better and a Silver Hill protest.

It has also seen political speeches by winners at general elections both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, including Mark Oaten after his victory by two votes in May 1997.