THE Deputy Prime Minister has backed a controversial decision to plough taxpayers’ money into a Hampshire sporting venue.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg voiced his support for more than £35m worth of council investment into the Ageas Bowl during a visit to the West End cricket ground.

He was in Hampshire to support Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton ahead of next week’s Eastleigh by-election.

The Lib Dem-run Eastleigh Borough Council last year approved a decision to fund a luxury hotel at the Ageas Bowl  and buy the 999-year lease for the grounds and buildings.

It was a decision that caused major controversy – particularly as accounts showed the company that runs the ground was making “major losses”.

But Mr Clegg said he thought it was a good investment.

He said: “It beggars belief that the Conservatives don’t want to create 500 extra jobs.
“I think people want politicians in charge locally and nationally who put money in people’s pockets and create jobs.

“This isn’t just about 500 jobs, it’s also bringing a lot of money into the area – millions and millions – and it will pay for itself many times over.

“We believe in making smart investments for the long term now, creating revenue in the long run for the people of Eastleigh, and I’m very proud of the fact that it’s the Lib Dems that have been doing that, not the Conservatives.”