In my 1st blog on the Boundary Review 2013 I reported on calculations I had done and possible constituencies I had arrived at for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region, prior to publication of the Boundary Commission for England initial proposals.
Maps and electorate figures
Since publication we have had access to the BCE maps, which are helpful in providing an overview of the whole sub-region as part of the West Midlands map. Prior to that I only had election maps, which were and still are very useful but do not zoom out far enough for an overview. I have to confess I just love maps! As a result of looking at the maps I have made some changes to my proposals although these are fairly minor.
I also added the 2011 electorate figures to my current spreadsheet. The BCE is using 2011 figures, which makes better sense, but 2010 ward boundaries, which is a little inconsistent. I had misunderstood that 2010 figures must be used by act of parliament but this is just for defining the UK quota; 76,641 and constituency minimum; 72,810 and maximum; 80,473, then the 2011 figures must be used. My proposals work with both 2010 and 2011 figures anyway.
I have coloured in a map for my proposals and compared with the BCE. I do not publish my map here for fear of inadvertently breaching copyright but the BCE will be publishing contributions including mine.
Ethos and methodology
My approach has been to put the greatest emphasis on local communities, geography, current and historical links and a strong emphasis on trying to match constituencies with local authorities. My reasoning is that I think this structure focuses on the issues that affect people’s lives locally and in an ideal world would feed ideas from the grass roots via the MPs to influence policy in parliament. Of course we don’t live in an ideal world but we can strive to do the best we can in that direction.
I don't regard matching the new constituencies with existing ones as that important, the reduction in number means significant changes anyway and I put a higher priority on the opportunity to match constituencies with local authorities.
As a resident in the area I have the advantages of local knowledge and that I can focus on detailed links for this one small area. In comparison the BCE has to consider the whole of England and did not consult to discover local views prior to publishing its initial proposals. The consultation comes now, after publication. So this is where interested local people such as myself can help the BCE arrive at more appropriate proposals based on local views.
Comparison of my proposals with the BCE initial proposals
There are substantial areas of agreement between my proposals for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region and the BCE ones. The area I selected to present proposals for exactly matches the sub-region chosen by the BCE.
The biggest difference between my proposals and the BCE ones turns out to be around my area of Trentham and Stoke-on-Trent. The city is historically a combination of 6 towns; Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton, Longton, each of which still retain a strong identity. Areas such as Trentham where I live have a village history and still retain some geographical separation.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council contains 2.4 UK quota of electorate so good local ties could be well represented by locating the 6 towns in 2 core Stoke-on-Trent constituencies and allocating some peripheral areas outside these. This is the basis for my Stoke-on-Trent North constituency, containing Tunstall and Burslem and my Stoke-on-Trent South constituency, containing Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton. I prefer these to the BCE proposals which split Burslem at it’s centre and leave Burslem North and Tunstall outside the city constituencies. The BCE report states that it seeks to respect the Southern boundary of the city but I cannot see that this is more important than respecting the Northern boundary and the 6 towns.
My proposal has 8 of the old 2010 Stoke-on-Trent wards in each constituency leaving 4 more peripheral wards including Trentham and Hanford where I live to join with other villages such as Barlaston and the town of Stone. This seems reasonable in terms of the geography and history of the areas involved. It does mean that the constituency I propose for my area includes wards from 3 different local authorities, but I think this is an acceptable compromise considering the character of the areas and the coherence of the proposals overall. In a purely self centred sense I would not be unhappy, if the numbers were different, with remaining in a Stoke-on-Trent only constituency. But the UK quota laid down in law does not allow this for the whole city and I prefer a solution that relates well to local links throughout the wider area.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council contains 1.3 UK quota of electorate so I have aimed to keep most of it in one constituency, joining 4 Southern and rural wards with the Southern peripheral wards of Stoke-on-Trent. I prefer this to the BCE proposals which split the Borough nearly equally in two and combine the wards around Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre with Stone and Southern rural areas.
Having considered the significant areas of difference between my proposals and the BCE proposals for these 4 constituencies, there is a major agreement; the outer boundary of this Northwest section of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region is identical.
My proposals are almost identical to the BCE proposals in the Southwest of the sub-region. There is only one ward where there is a difference: Wheaton Aston, Bishopswood and Lapley. I would place this ward in the same constituency as most of the other South Staffordshire District Council wards, which makes better sense to me. Additionally, the Northern boundary of the ward is better defined geographically than the Southern boundary which cuts through Kiddemore Green. My proposals have the advantage of placing the whole of Kiddemore Green in the same constituency.
My proposal for Cannock Chase is identical to the BCE proposal and the outer boundary for the 3 constituencies of this Southwest section of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region is also identical.
My proposals are almost identical to the BCE proposals in the Southeast of the sub-region. There are two wards where there is a difference: Whittington and Hammerwich. Whittington is a rural ward and in character is better placed with the rural wards around Tamworth than with Lichfield, this placement also gives the Tamworth constituency a better geographical shape. Hammerwich ward encompasses part of Burntwood, so it makes sense for this ward to be in the same constituency as the other Burntwood wards. In addition the A461 provides a very clear geographical separation between Hammerwich and wards to the Southeast.
My proposals have an outer boundary for the 2 constituencies of this Southeast section of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region identical to the BCE proposals.
My proposals for the 2 constituencies of the Northeast section of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region are in complete agreement with the BCE proposals, apart from names.