Cllr Kris Wilson is the Leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Council.
In many ways, the 2021 local elections were both the longest and shortest election campaigns I have worked on. Prior to the cancellation of the elections due to Covid last year, we had been working on our campaign from straight after the General Election. We were all put on hold – and then given a short campaign for the postponed elections this year.
The enforced 12-month delay kept a no-overall control council, under Labour, for a year longer than they deserved. But it made us even more determined to run a tight campaign and get rid of Labour after 46 out of 48 years in control of our council.
Campaigning in a Covid Environment
Even though we couldn’t have the physical contact with voters that we are used to, there were still many ways to communicate. Online and freepost surveys, together with telephone canvassing, all helped maintain that connection with the people of Nuneaton and Bedworth. We used all the feedback that we had, both pre and post Covid, to form our manifesto. Showing to residents, Labour’s record of failure, is necessary and useful. But people need something to vote for, which is precisely what we did.
When we were able to start delivering, our greatest asset was our Manifesto leaflet. Over 40,000 leaflets across the Borough gave our voters a positive vision of what a council under the Conservatives could deliver.
Vision, Ambition and Aspiration – our Manifesto
Our manifesto contained several pledges to make a difference to our community:
- Transforming our town centres
- Supporting businesses through the Covid recovery
- Ending Labour’s waste of money on vanity projects
- Tackling crime and grime in our Borough
- Making our streets safer
- Fairer housing developments across Nuneaton and Bedworth.
We promised a big programme for change, all directly influenced by the views and responses we have had from the people we were seeking to serve.
The Big Day – an election 18 months in the making
The beauty of starting our abortive election campaign so early after the 2019 General Election was that when we began our 2020 local campaign, we could afford to spend more time in areas we haven’t traditionally been able to get into as easily. We went into wards we knew were heavily Brexit-leaning and that returns had shown we had won at the General Election.
We amassed a wealth of data in target wards we simply hadn’t had before. This enabled us to target wards more effectively and develop areas that were traditional Labour Red Wall seats usually out of our grasp.
On the day, we put this data to good use by having campaign teams in our target wards and getting out our vote. The reception was really positive. We entered the count cautiously optimistic that we were in for a good night.
And we were so right.
Election Night – history in the making
Until May 2021, the best result we had ever achieved was when we first took control in 2008 under Marcus Jones, now MP for Nuneaton, and 18 seats overall. Then in 2014 we fell to just three seats and we have rebuilt ever since.
We believed that we could take control, with a slightly better majority than Marcus achieved. But the results we did achieve were extraordinary.
Seat after seat fell. Labour’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor fell. Then the Deputy Leader of the Council. After three recounts and just four votes in it, the Leader of the Council fell too. At 5am in the morning the scale of our achievement became obvious.
Out of 17 seats up for election we took 15. And best of all, a total of 24 Conservative councillors with a majority of 14.
Getting to work – delivering our Vision, Ambition and Aspiration
Prior to the election, as then-Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Cabinet, we prepared a series of transition documents and held meetings with senior officers, so they were in no doubt about what we intended to bring forward if we took control.
After seven weeks in control – two cabinet meetings and an emergency budget council – we have achieved more for the residents of Nuneaton and Bedworth in 49 days than Labour did in almost 50 years:
- Free market rates for our regular traders during Covid recovery
- Three hours parking for £1
- Free car parking during December and January this year
- Scrapping the Mayor’s chauffeur driven car and Labour’s In Touch Magazine
- Selling Labour’s Climbing Tower that cost £42 a climb.
- Deep cleaning all three town centres twice a year
- Buying 12 extra Nomad cameras for Police to target anti-social behaviour.
- Purchasing six fly-tipping CCTV cameras
- Restoring the target-hardening fund to deter illegal traveller encampments.
- Trialling the return of Bedworth market to the main square
- Introducing new tests for taxi drivers on safeguarding, dementia, and English language
- Kickstarting the Local Plan Review
- Ending the housing overspill agreement with Coventry, based on their flawed growth data
- PSPO’s to tackle begging in our town centres and nuisance selling of cars by the roadside.
We have accomplished so much in a short space of time. And I look forward to delivering much more in the future.