IT is “farcical” to have the firm responsible for town centre regeneration move into council offices without steps being made to bring them under council control, Labour say.

The fierce condemnation comes after news that Forward Swindon (FSL) - whose regeneration brief covers the Carriage Works, Kimmerfields, the Mechanics Institute and the Corn Exchange, among others - is to move into new offices at Watt Tyler House.

The Labour Group has long argued that town centre regeneration would be better served if Forward Swindon were brought back within the responsibility of Swindon Borough Council.

The Conservative administration, however, has always maintained that Forward Swindon should remain as an arms length company, wholly owned and funded by the council.

But the decision to house the firm in the council building while keeping them at arms length has been described as “farcical” by opposition councillors.

Coun Jim Grant, leader of the Swindon Labour Group, said: “I welcome the fact the Conservatives have recognised that they have wasted taxpayers money by paying for Forward Swindon to have its own offices, and they now have brought Forward Swindon back within the council building.

“However, we now have the nonsense of paying for Forward Swindon to remain a private company, while they are working within the council offices alongside other council officers. It is frankly a farcical situation.”

The firm cost the council £1.179m to run in 2016/17 and £1.1m in 2017/18, though efforts are being made to make it self-funding.

But Councillor Garry Perkins, the cabinet member responsible for regeneration, insisted there was nothing “farcical” about giving Forward Swindon offices in Watt Tyler House.

He even turned the tables and accused Labour of slowing the progress of development with political games.

He said: “I completely reject Labour’s notion that money has been wasted on FSL. It had not been for the opposition wanting to play party political football with regeneration, we would have made more progress.

“Through FSL, Swindon has secured Seven Capital, a major developer, to take the North Star Village regional leisure complex forward and we have secured University of Wales to bring higher education teaching right to our town centre.”

He added: “We are working with the owners of the Debenhams site to convert the empty offices in Falcon House into accommodation and FSL is about to complete the renovation of one to three Faringdon Road.”

In February, Labour Group proposed a budget amendment to save taxpayers’ cash by bringing Forward Swindon in-house.