CIVIC chiefs are to bid for cash that will help key workers buy houses.

It could mean that first-time buyers getting a house in Winchester or its surrounding area with just a £60,000 mortgage.

Members of the city council's cabinet agreed to pitch for government money that will be available later this year.

There will be £50 million available nationally this year, then £100 million for each of the next three years.

Winchester has the 24th highest house prices in the country, including some London boroughs. It has a median house price of £151,950.

Andrew Palmer, housing development and enabling manager, told cabinet members: "The city council, because of its position within the overall countrywide rankings, will be in a strong position to bid for resources.

"There is a well-documented recruitment problem locally with regard to teachers and health workers and links have been established between housing associations, city and county councils to discuss possible solutions."

Labour group leader Patrick Davies, pictured, said: "I think we should welcome this. We have made enough noise about needing more resources for housing. This is a positive step forward. It has to be done in co-operation with housing associations."

The cabinet must submit a bid to the government by February 20.

A report will come to the committee later, on a comprehensive strategy to deal with key worker accommodation.

Mr Palmer added: "In the wider picture we recognise the issue of key workers as a small part of the jigsaw. We want this as part of a wider strategy to help key workers in the Winchester area. We may consider that to be all public sector workers."