THOUSANDS of pounds have been saved by Romsey and Test Valley residents thanks to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, figures reveal.

Data published by the Government revealed Romsey and Southampton North claimed £256,000 in discounts under the 77 restaurants registered for the Government scheme.

The figures unveiled 47,000 meals were claimed at an average of £5.44 from August 3 to August 31.

Now, the president of Romsey & District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ieuan Wathen, said the figures are encouraging, but stressed the scheme could have continued until the end of September to help businesses.

However, deputy leader for Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), Cllr Nick Adams-King, insisted the Government could not keep the scheme running for more than a month, due to the pandemic costing "the country so much already".

Ieuan, 47, said: "It is great to see people coming back out again and I think the discounts helped encourage people to do this.

"It would have been nice if the Government kept the scheme going until the end of September, because there are a lot of offices above these shops in Romsey and the scheme could have helped bring people back into the town centre."

He added if more workers were back in offices this could help support businesses, such as coffee shops, during the "vital lunchtime trade".

Cllr Adams-King, said: "In terms of the scheme continuing, there is a point where you cannot keep helping, because the pandemic has cost the country so much already.

"But I can say the scheme was very cleverly done, because I used to own restaurants and in the end we didn't open on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday since the cost of opening was more than the amount of money we would take.

"Making the restaurants busy on those days was a really good thing and I know it was popular, because I tried to book on a couple of occasions to go out and I couldn't since everywhere was full."

Cllr Dorothy Baverstock, who represents Romsey Cupernham on Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), also weighed in on the figures.

She said: "I know some people were trying to book places at pubs and restaurants over the last week of the scheme and they couldn't get a spot for love nor money, because everywhere was fully booked.

"In a way, it was almost cheaper for people to go out and have food rather than cook for themselves.

"Let's hope people are just as keen to go out to eat and don't stop doing this, because they can't get money off their meal now."

As reported, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last month, participating restaurants offered 50 per cent off food and non-alcoholic drinks up to a total value of £10 per person.