At Full Council on 14 July 2021, Conservatives scrapped Labour's Memorandum of Understanding with Coventry City Council that forced us to accept 4,000 houses from them and sacrifice our own green belt land to protect theirs.
Following the decision of the Office for Statistics Regulation that Coventry's growth figures were fundamentally flawed - figures which were used to force Nuneaton and Bedworth to take the Coventry overspill - the new Conservative administration has taken the decision to end the unfair and unpopular agreement.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Kris Wilson, said:
"Nuneaton and Bedworth is the smallest district in Warwickshire, but we are the most densely populated. I believe that residents in our Borough want to be treated fairly, and my new administration will not sign up to anything that isn't. That is why we cannot allow the Memorandum to stand as it is as we go through our Borough Plan Review - a Review that we launched within weeks of taking control.
"By abstaining against this motion, Labour have yet again demonstrated that they do not understand why they were so roundly defeated at the local elections just gone and that they are not fit to run our council. Yet again, it is the Conservatives in Nuneaton and Bedworth putting our residents first and showing that we are the party that stands up for our Borough."
The motion was passed to end the Memorandum of Understanding with Coventry and local Conservatives will now begin the process of negotiating with our neighbours for a fairer deal.
To read Cllr Wilson's speech introducing the motion you can read it below:
Mr Mayor, I’m delighted to move this motion tonight which shows that under this new Conservative administration we are listening to the residents of Nuneaton, Bedworth and Bulkington.
The Borough Plan has a chequered history and would take far too long to recount here tonight. Since taking control in May we have already implemented one of our key manifesto commitments – to review the Borough Plan.
However, reviewing the Borough Plan whilst we still have the same method for distributing the overspill – 4000 houses – from Coventry will not address the fundamental unfairness that our Borough is suffering from in comparison to other districts and boroughs in Warwickshire that is the Memorandum of Understanding.
As the Borough Plan Inspector said in his report, the 4000 houses from Coventry “represents a very significant 40% uplift on the Borough’s own objectively assessed need”.
The reality is that under the Labour leadership of this council we were late to the table in negotiating the housing numbers that had to be redistributed. The rest of Warwickshire essentially carved up the numbers they were prepared to take, and we ended up with the remainder. Labour were asleep at the wheel and it is the people of our Borough who suffered.
In May, the Office for Statistics Regulation dropped a huge bombshell that demands this council to act – the population growth figures for Coventry, which underpins the overspill requirements that we were forced to take, have been found to be wildly inflated.
Even the Borough Plan Inspector recognised that Coventry’s growth forecasts were high. He said at paragraph 90: “The forecast population growth in Coventry over the period 2011-2031 is high at 32% (comparing with Birmingham 16% and Nuneaton & Bedworth at 8%).”
This makes the Review that we are undertaking critical to restoring fairness in our planning system.
Withdrawing from the Memorandum signed by Labour sends a clear signal of intent to our neighbours that they need to engage with us on a level playing field. We are willing to talk to our neighbours, but any future agreement between our councils must be on a fair and equitable basis.
The Memorandum worked on the basis that because we are closest to Coventry, we must take a greater proportion of the overspill in Nuneaton and Bedworth – 33% of their unmet need – despite the fact that we are the smallest district in the whole of Warwickshire.
Again, that is fundamentally unfair.
And since we have started our review, Labour held Coventry – who let us not forget the previous Labour leader of this council called to beg them to merge Nuneaton and Bedworth into Coventry – have said that our review is “premature”.
I find that statement to be an insult to the people of Nuneaton and Bedworth, given that we had to remove our land from Green Belt to accommodate their housing based off flawed figures.
This is Coventry Labour trying to deflect from the fact they got their housing figures fundamentally wrong, and our review highlights their own failure. Quite frankly, the residents of Coventry deserve better – and so do the residents of Nuneaton and Bedworth.
It is time that Coventry Labour stepped up to the plate and began their own review. Not just because we are, but because their own people are demanding it too.
In fact, the review of our own Borough Plan is overdue and necessary.
Don’t just take my word for it. Again, the Borough Plan Inspector said at paragraph 33: “Bearing in mind the 2019 NPPF, the latest methodology to establish local housing need and the requirement to ensure a deliverable supply of housing land, these factors come together to justify the Council committing to a “comprehensive review” of the Plan before 31 March 2023. This is a shorter period than the legislated 5 years, but I consider it necessary for soundness so that a review can be aligned quickly to updated assessments of needs across the wider housing market area.”
But to do our review we need to do it based on fairness for the people of Nuneaton and Bedworth.
This motion ends our commitment to using the current MoU and we will not sign up to any agreement that is not fair to Nuneaton and Bedworth. We may be the David to Coventry’s Goliath, but under this new Conservative administration we will continue to fight for the best interests of our residents. We will not cave in, like Labour.
If we vote for this motion, it will send a clear signal of intent to all our neighbours.
This is a new administration. We want to talk and agree where possible. But not at any cost. Negotiate with us fairly, with data that is accurate and a distribution that recognises we are the geographically smallest but most densely populated district in Warwickshire, and we will engage.
But if these conditions are not met, we will not sign any agreement. Because this new Conservative administration actually stands up for our Borough.