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The myth of massive population growth in Coventry

20th May 2021

We receive response from the UKSA to our letter challenging the ONS population projections for Coventry.

Let’s just remind ourselves about what’s been going on in Coventry.

The Office for National Statistics came up with some figures that detailed the City’s population was going to grow at twice the rate of other towns in the County. The result of this was the City Council needed to find land for the building of 1000s of new houses and where did they choose: green belt land around the City. We couldn’t believe it and neither could our member Merle Gering. So he set about gathering data that systematically debunked the ONS findings and showed that the anticipated growth was a myth and we told the ONS so. After being basically ignored by the ONS we presented Merle’s work to the UK Statistics Authority, the regulator of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and asked them to review the latter’s work. We were backed by Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and five cross party MPs and the UKSA agreed to undertake a review.

It’s out and you can read it in full here.

We were looking for a clear finding that the population projections provided by the ONS and subsequently used by the City Council were fundamentally flawed. Sadly the report which was published on 10th May says that whilst the ONS takes a sensible approach to the measuring of the population, its data on migration continues to be challenging to come by with any degree of certainty; and more needs to be done to investigate the root and scale of the issue of overseas students and outward migration. We had hoped that the UKSA also made clear the ONS figures based on immigration and emigration of students for the City’s two Universities should clearly be said to be unreliable. But instead the ONS have been told to look at their figures again with that in mind and report back to the Regulator by July.

We will be seeking a moratorium on all housing development and future major planning application approvals that look to build in the countryside, particularly green belt. And we will be writing to the Local Authority asking for as much now.

We have been telling the ONS their figures were unreliable for the last eighteen months and a fat lot of notice they have taken of our better data: they are an obdurate bunch and will I expect be loathed to admit their error, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with in July. They will be reluctant to change – that is obvious from their dismissive approach to our work over the months, so expect a mealy-mouthed set of words that admit to nothing, certainly not that they were wrong. However, I might be doing them an injustice saying that, as the Regulator also asked that they embrace change and take a more open and constructive approach to responding to user feedback (i.e., criticism!) and view any challenges to its work as an opportunity. So here’s hoping.

Read Ed Humpherson’s letter to our Chairman, Sir Andrew Watson, by clicking here.