Following a parliamentary decision, the number of MPs in the UK has to be reduced from 650 to 600, giving an average UK electoral quota of 76,641. The act of parliament defines some criteria that the new constituencies must fulfil. Electorate figures and local government boundaries applicable at the 2010 election must be used and the electorate in a constituency must not be more than 5% different from the UK quota. Each constituency must therefore have an electorate between 72,810 and 80,473.
Notwithstanding that as a grass roots democrat I disagree with the reduction in MPs; I think democracy is better served by maximising involvement and devolution, given that the reduction is happening I am interested in considering how it is done. I live in Trentham, in the 2010 Trentham and Hanford ward in Stoke-on-Trent, so I focus my discussion on my area.
In England a reduction from 533 to 502 constituencies is required, of which 2 must be for the Isle of Wight. The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) reviews the English Wards and publishes a guide for this. Following this the BCE allocate 54 constituencies across the West Midlands region as used for the European elections; 4,092,811 electorate and need compelling reasons not to use that boundary. In Stoke-on-Trent our wards were redefined for the 2011 election but the act is based on the 2010 wards which the BCE will not divide.
Prior to publication of the BCE initial proposals, following their guidance and referring to the BCE data, I performed calculations for the Staffordshire area only, including Stoke-on-Trent. The total electorate for this area is 838,212. Dividing by the UK quota or regional quota gives 11 constituencies for the area and an area quota of 76,201. Where my approach differs a little from the BCE approach, is that I prioritise use of local authority boundaries over existing constituency boundaries, whereas the BCE prioritises these the other way around. My reason for this is primarily that I think local authorities have more affect on people’s lives and there is an advantage of an MP having to deal with constituents from as few local authority areas as possible.
Of the 9 local authorities in the Staffordshire area, 3, Cannock Chase, Lichfield and Staffordshire Moorlands, have electorate in the correct range to neatly become constituencies, so I did this for 2, although geography made this impossible for Lichfield. Stoke-on-Trent will not divide neatly into 2 or 3 constituencies, if combined with Newcastle-under-Lyme the total will not divide neatly into 3 or 4 constituencies, so the outcome for my area is destined to be a bit messy. This is compounded by the Stoke-on-Trent old wards being large. Using my knowledge of the localities as best I can I arrived at the following result:
This is not based on my own preferences for Trentham, it is just a result I get that works within the rules. Communities may be taken into account in defining constituencies but party politics cannot be considered. My spreadsheet results would move me from a safe Labour seat to a safe Conservative seat. I have never voted Conservative, although I have stopped voting Labour as well.
I'm not convinced my result is that great but at first glance I prefer it to the initial BCE proposal. I will digest that better when I find more time to do so. It will also be most interesting to find out the views of others.