SWINDON is to be given between £500,000 and £1m by the Government to spend on immediate improvements and lockdown recovery as part of the prime minister’s pledge to “build, build, build” Britain out of economic difficulties.

Yesterday Boris Johnson announced the bringing forward of £5bn of already-planned government spending on infrastructure projects with much more money, and ambitious aims for education, health, transport, social care and industry to follow.

Initially, as one of the towns previously selected to bid for cash from the government’s Stronger Town’s fund, Swindon will receive up to £1m.

Whitehall says it can be used for shovel-ready projects from new cycle lanes and better pedestrian access to repurposing empty shops and creating new community spaces.

MPs Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson, who are said by borough council cabinet member for the town centre Dale Heenan to have been lobbying their government colleagues for money for the town were very pleased.

In a joint statement they said: “We are delighted that Swindon will receive at least £500,000 from the Stronger Towns fund this year – ahead of schedule – enabling local leaders to accelerate plans that will transform our area and help Swindon to thrive as we move beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“We welcome the prime minister’s commitment to invest in infrastructure to unite and level up the country as we come through the coronavirus pandemic.

“The £5 billion to bring forward infrastructure projects of all types, from better connected, more modern high streets to new schools and roads, will help to create new jobs and opportunities across Britain, and we will be fighting to ensure our area gets its fair share.”

Swindon Labour group leader Jim Grant thought the hype rather overwhelmed the reality.

He said: “I agree with Labour leader Keir Starmer when he described the Prime Minister’s New Deal as not new and not much of a deal.

“Much of it was re-announcing Conservative manifesto pledges, and the money announced works out at less than £100 per person.

“Swindon Labour has repeatedly said we’ll work with the Conservatives on ensuring a sound economic recovery for our town; and we recently published our wide-ranging recovery plan.

“But the focus has to be on jobs –we need a laser like focus on guaranteeing that we don’t see large scale unemployment. With Honda closing next year and our high streets in need of support and regeneration we have to put jobs at the centre of our recovery.

“That’s why Labour nationally has been calling for a back to work budget and greater support for local government, so that as we face this economic crisis we ensure that we support frontline workers and we don’t see people losing their livelihoods. The focus has to be on jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The council is putting together bids for up to £25m from the Towns Fund to pay for a number of different projects. The council’s fund board meets this afternoon to evaluate bids and finalise a proposal it must send to the Government at the end of this month.

It has already put in a bid for £25m from the Future High Streets, which it intends to put toward the Fleming Way bus boulevard scheme.

Decisions on both bids are expected in autumn.

Coun Heenan was approached for a comment.