Neither the Great Western Powerhouse venture nor the England’s Economic Heartland project are just talking shops according to the borough council leader David Renard.

Coun Renard was presenting his bi-annual report on what the authority has done, and what it hopes to do to members of the scrutiny committee.

And the two ventures – both intended to increase investment in and prosperity for Swindon – were high on the agenda.

Coun Renard said: “I firmly believe that our membership of the EHH will provide a platform to bid for access to government funding to support improved road and rail links to Oxford and beyond as far as Cambridge and even Norwich.

"This would help secure our economic advantages as part of the country’s wealth-creating hub.”

He added: “There’s Crossrail, and connections to Heathrow and the electrification of the mainline, but we really do have to nail the connection to Heathrow.”

Chairman of the committee Labour’s Bob Wright quoted a previous Conservative leader of the council Rod Bluh: “He said 'we want Swindon to be the best business location in the country'.

"Swindon works is a good story and we are at crossroads between the two areas.”

Conservative councillor Roger Smith was sceptical: "These groups can become talking shops.

"Do you know they’ll prove practical use to Swindon?”

Coun Renard said: “I don’t want to spend time going round the country attending just a talking shop.

"There is ministerial support for this.

"The government is focusing on strategic transport boards, Transport for London, Transport for the North and the EEH, focusing on links between Oxford and Cambridge will morph into a regional transport board.

"If we want some of that action to increase our connectivity to Oxford, we need to be in the club.”

Coun Wright was not so sure: “There are established histories and opportunities at Oxford and Cambridge, which don’t include Swindon.

"Self-interest would suggest Oxford and Cambridge would want to keep the benefits for themselves.”

Coun Renard was quizzed about the future of the Honda plant and workforce.

He told Coun Des Moffatt he didn’t know anything more of a rumoured bid by Dyson to take over the plant and he said the £200,000 the council allocated to supporting the workforce in February was still being held in reserve.

Coun Renard will make another report to scrutiny in six months’ time.