A ROW has erupted between Borough and County councillors over the need for a new secondary school in the north of Rugby.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) – which is responsible for ensuring there are sufficient school places – says a proposed new school at Coton Park is not needed.
But Rugby Borough Council (RBC) – having allocated the site and secured developer funding – unanimously agrees that it is.
Following a summit between the two authorities, a WCC spokesperson said their data showed the new school was unnecessary.
They said: “We commissioned an independent review which verified the data and confirmed our forecasting methodology was considered accurate.
“WCC has already agreed sufficient additional places with schools for September 2023 and is in discussion with several schools about the provision of additional places for the longer term.
“Although a site has been identified in the local plan, this site has not been secured and WCC would need to purchase it from the landowner. While some developer funding would be available towards the cost, there would be a significant shortfall.”
WCC’s education spokeswoman Coun Kam Kaur added: “It would be neither financially prudent nor best use of taxpayers’ money to spend in excess of £50million on a new school and the land required, when sufficient places are available both now and in the future through existing schools.”
But RBC leader Coun Seb Lowe said there was a ‘clear need’ for the new school.
He said: “It was both disappointing and unsurprising that WCC chose to approach the discussion with the reliance on highly questionable data which has sadly been the hallmark of their approach to this issue.
“The data produced by WCC bears so little resemblance to what we all see on the ground that it should be ringing alarm bells.
“We have been campaigning for a new school in the north of Rugby for many years – land was allocated for this purpose in our local plan adopted nearly four years ago. RBC has fulfilled its side of the bargain.
“I offered WCC the opportunity to have RBC pay for a new and independent review of the data to determine the picture once and for all.
“While it is disappointing that WCC’s Cabinet Member for Education chose to reject that offer, I still hope that she will reconsider when she has reflected on the strength of feeling in the room.
“As things stand, there is total agreement at RBC on the need for a new school, and yet WCC continues to oppose a fresh look at the data on projected need for school places – despite the fact that there are so many questions around their methodology.”
Councillors from the Labour Group at RBC said there had been a ‘total failure’ by the two Conservative-controlled councils to work together.
Coun Barbara Brown, the party’s education spokeswoman on both councils, said: “Between 2011 and 2021, the population of Rugby rose by an astronomical 14.3 per cent – the largest growth of any local authority in the West Midlands. A failure to plan strategically for a sound infrastructure in the light of this level of growth is appalling.
“Today we are discussing school places, but the same principle applies equally to every single public service in the town. Rugby deserves better than this.”
Rugby Labour Group leader Coun Maggie O’Rourke added: “At both County and Borough level we see a failure by the Conservatives to forward plan, with local families bearing the consequences.
“WCC’s ‘Education Sufficiency Strategy’ is deficient, not sufficient, and is failing to provide local schools for local children.”