THE Labour group on Swindon Council is calling for a £1million gamble on the Thamesdown Drive extension to be taken with money earmarked for other projects.
This week it was revealed the council would have to spend £1m on improving its plans for the relief road before funding would be considered from central government.
And Jim Grant, leader of the Labour group, said it was a risk worth taking.
“I believe spending the required money for the design work for the Thamesdown extension road is a long-term investment to help mitigate traffic on Swindon’s roads,” said Coun Grant.
“I am certain that one day the Thamesdown extension road will be built, it is just a matter of when.
“This design work can be kept for years to come if necessary, so the job of the council should be to hasten the construction of this road and this design work is critical in achieving this.
“Residents living in West Swindon and North Swindon who have to endure severe traffic every weekday morning will not forgive Swindon Council for letting this road slip away for another decade or more, so we believe this has to happen and happen at the earliest opportunity.
“I think the Conservative cabinet member’s decision to not do the detailed design is symbolic of this Conservative administration’s attitude towards this road, which is to keep kicking it in to the long grass.
“The previous Labour administration as far back as 2002 were preparing to do the detailed design work for this road because we knew it was essential to manage traffic. We are now more than a decade on and this administration is still making excuses for not providing this road.”
Labour say the funds could be drawn from £3m put aside for the New Homes Bonus, or £850,000 which has been put aside for projects to be announced at cabinet.
But David Renard, leader of the council, said £1m of taxpayer money could not go to waste.
“Everything is about choice,” said Coun Renard. “There is some New Homes Bonus money that could be used, but the question is whether we spend that £1m on a scheme that may not actually happen, or something tangible that we can deliver.
“If the government were willing to give a firm committment that they would fund the road I would be willing to commit the investment. As much as I would like to see that road completed there are better ways to spend £1m.
“While I am very supportive of the project, we have already spent a significant sum of money working up the initial brief after having heard the right noises from the government.
“I am disappointed. This was something I took up when I became leader of the council because it is an important part of infrastructure.
“I think the Labour group are always willing to take a gamble if we say it is not worth taking. They were very quick to oppose the work on Fleming Way. There is an element of risk with everything, and this is too big of a gamble.”