Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has slammed Eastleigh Borough Council’s "excessive debt" during a visit to the town.

Mr Sunak said the Liberal Democrat-led authority’s financial state was "very concerning".

It comes after the publication of a damning auditors’ report highlighting the possibility of fraud in the council's flagship housing scheme, One Horton Heath.

The debt-laden authority stands firm by the fact no fraud has been discovered.

Speaking during his visit to Silverlake Stadium today, Mr Sunak said: “It’s very concerning but I think Paul [Holmes] has done a very good job of highlighting some of the issues about this.

“He's raised concerns with the department and it's right that these concerns are looked into.

“This is ultimately taxpayers and residents’ money.

“It's their financial security that's being put at risk and the council should be held accountable for that.”

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Mr Sunak’s visit forms part of his pre-election campaign as he fights to retain and win Tory seats.

Paul Holmes, MP for Eastleigh, will be standing for the new Hamble constituency at the next election following changes by the Boundary Commission which saw his current constituency split into two.

Mr Sunak is concerned decisions by Eastleigh Borough Council will go unchallenged if a Lib Dem candidate is elected in Mr Holmes’ place.

He said: “Paul has been holding them accountable and that would only happen with a Conservative MP.”

Mr Holmes said he is very concerned about the levels of debt Eastleigh Borough Council is accruing.

He told the Echo: “The department have already issued that best value notice against Eastleigh Borough Council.

“But now that we've seen their own external auditor say that they cannot disprove or prove where the fraud happened and that fundamentally the management practices within that council are not fit for purpose.

“I believe we now need direct government intervention in this council.

“If people cannot trust the leader and his cabinet to make decisions in a transparent and efficient way, then they should not be in charge of that council.”

Questions about Southampton City Council’s financial woes were also posed to the PM.

Chief executive Mike Harris recently announced he would step down after 25 years at the council after the authority's financial problems took a ‘significant toll’ on his health.

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For Mr Sunak, it is down to local authorities to decide how to spend funding from the government.

He said: “Ultimately, it's up to each and every council individually to decide how they want to prioritize that money.

“On top of that, the government is investing in communities through things like our levelling up funds and our high street fund.

“Every council will make their own decisions; the government has put considerably more money into the system.”

But the Eastleigh Labour Party claim he has shown a 'total disconnect with the real world experience of Eastleigh constituents'.

The party cited the 'financial strain being put on hardworking families because of Conservative economic failure and the desperate desire for change'.

A spokesperson said: "It is clear that neither the Lib Dems nor the Conservatives can be trusted with the public purse.

"It’s no surprise to find the PM visiting Eastleigh to desperately try to sure up support after recent polling suggested he was heading for a landslide defeat in the upcoming General Election."

Mr Sunak travelled north to Winchester following his visit to Eastleigh.

During his visit to the city, which is run by a Lib Dem-led council, he was by a disgruntled voter over the state of the NHS.

The Prime Minister was told “you could stop it all”, as a woman confronted him on a walkabout in Winchester about lengthy wait times for treatment.

In an exchange caught on camera by Sky News, Mr Sunak appeared to laugh nervously as she said: “You could make it all go back to how it used to be … where, if you had a problem, you could go to the hospital.

“My daughter spent seven hours waiting.”

In response, Mr Sunak blamed striking doctors for the backlog.

He told the woman that the recent dip in the number of people waiting “just shows that when there aren’t strikes, we really can make progress”.

The PM also met with Peter Taylor, senior partner at Paris Smith, who shared how business leaders are feeling about the regional economy.

He said: "The PM was actively interested in the range of issues we were able to discuss which I highlighted as being those I hear on a regular basis in conversations across Hampshire."