Who’s pulling the strings?

Two weeks ago came news that Coventry City plans to “redistribute” much of its declared housing needs into Warwick District, as well as other neighbouring areas. Strangely the Courier thought fit to publish this only in its Warwick edition.

Then last week Dr Diana Taulbut’s letter drew attention to the perverse and highly selective use of ONS (Office of National Statistics) population projections by WDC planners. On the one hand, they cast a Nelson eye on the latest much reduced ONS growth figures for Warwick district ; but at the same time they accept without question the hugely inflated ONS figures for Coventry’s housing needs.

Now I want to draw attention to the puppet masters who tell local councillors – through executive and group leadership – to nod when instructed to do so.

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The WDC website has recently begun to show a huge list of documents, for the Local Plan examination. Tucked away, deep in this thicket of megabytes I chanced on an appendix put out by the Coventry and Warwickshire Joint Committee, dated April 2014. A similar body, called Coventry & Warwickshire Economic Prosperity Board, is quoted on Coventry City’s website as the basis for their current housing plans. These committees / boards consist of leader plus chief executive from each local authority who “commit” to ensuring that local councils will nod through a prescribed sub-regional strategy. This accepts the hugely increased housing numbers for Coventry, much of it to be redistributed all over Warwickshire ; then by the way they also anticipate around 29,000 extra new homes to spill over from Birmingham and Solihull.

The Joint Committee does at one point recognise that it has no powers to make binding decisions and claims it is describing a “collaborative bottom up approach”. It’s just that committee members are invited to convey top down instructions to their own councils.

The paper also notes that the Chief Executive’s Group (CEG) will be responsible for overseeing the process, by preparing the reports.

So, when readers go to the polling station in May they can vote for district councillors who will then be set an agenda by the CEG.

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During a Local Plan public forum last year, and again in the recent council debate on submitting the plan, there was no mention of these committees or boards which have been pulling the strings.

I have much sympathy with councillors who are confronted week after week with endless agendas and reports. But how well have they been briefed ? Has their compliant vote been presumed on as a done deal ?

Richard Ashworth, Willes Road, Leamington