Millions of pounds to be allocated to motorway improvements should instead be used on improving Swindon’s air, Labour councillors say.

A change to Swindon Borough Council’s budget will see £4.8m rerouted from Swindon Art Gallery and Museum to help pay for improvements to Junction 15 of the M4.

The idea is to create a left turn only lane for traffic heading to London, joining the motorway at the roundabout from the A419.

A meeting of the full council this week is poised to approve the plan.

But the leader of the Labour opposition in the council chamber, Jim Grant, is not impressed.

He said: “ I find it incredible that, in light of a recent report which said that 5 per cent of all deaths in Swindon were related to poor air quality the council has chosen to divert £5m from the art gallery into works on Junction 15.

“Even (council leader) David Renard has agreed we have an 'air quality emergency' yet he is failing to spend money to combat this crisis. Surely this money should being diverted into converting the Swindon Borough Council transport fleet to electric vehicles.

“The Tories say they want the council to be carbon neutral by 2030 – by passing up such an opportunity one wonders exactly how serious they are in that aim.”

Mr Grant was referring to an Adver story about the Centre for Cities study which said the proportion of deaths in Swindon ascribed to air pollution in 2017 – 5.4 per cent – was the highest in the south west. The study’s figures say 97 people over 25 in the borough died from air pollution in 2017.

That study was queried by the borough council, which said the think tank's figures didn’t tally with its own.

The Conservative cabinet’s member for strategic planning Gary Sumner was scornful of Coun Grant’s suggestions.

He said: “The sheer ignorance of the operation and managed growth of a modern town like Swindon by the Labour leadership is lamentable.

“The Conservative administration recognises the issues of both climate change and air quality and such works go some way to addressing the latter.

“Congestion on a daily basis on the A419/M4 is a brake on growth, housing delivery and a massive contributor to vehicle emissions.

“Queues often tail back from the M4 beyond the White Hart junction and will impede both residents and critical ‘just on time deliveries’ which underpin manufacturing and jobs.

“New investment in Swindon will be deterred as a result of continuing to accept this. We have obtained over £120m of investment in infrastructure in Swindon in the last two years.

"The Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership recognise this and have assisted with the latest £3m grant and we have chosen to use £4.8m of funding from our capital budget which was previously allocated for the failed Museum and Art Gallery scheme and which can be used to support this essential scheme.

"We still fully support the concept of a museum and art gallery as part of a Cultural Quarter and plans are being formed to deliver this in the future.

"The investment in Junction 15 is a way of improving air quality, reducing congestion and supporting the carefully planned growth of our town in the decades ahead.”