Monday, 7 May 2012

Boundary Review 2013 - second consultation

The deadline for the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) consultation on representations received on the initial proposals was on 3rd April.  I did submit a response to this.  Time has not been on my side for blogging though, but now I reproduce my consultation response, followed by other miscellaneous comments just for the blog, below, specifying relevant Unique Reference Numbers (URNs).  This blog follows previous blogs;   1, 2, 3, 4.

BCE second consultation - response by Nicky Davis

I wish to make a broad ranging comment rather than comments attached to specific URNs, so I have just picked the Stafford transcript (URN 30029) as a convenient entry point, as I spoke there as well as making a written contribution (URN25156) and a subsequent comment (BCE/CR/000313).  I have submitted these 3 slightly different proposals for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region, given in the spreadsheets:

The key points are not to split any of the 6 towns of Stoke-on-Trent and keep them all within two constituencies Stoke-on-Trent North and Stoke-on-Trent South, and keep most of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough within a constituency of the same name.  My own area of Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, is amongst areas I place in a constituency I call West Staffordshire in order to facilitate this.  The only difference in the 3 spreadsheets above is in the choice of which Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough wards to place in West Staffordshire to make the numbers work.  I choose rural wards of Madeley and Loggerheads and Whitmore in all cases but in addition choose either Seabridge and Clayton or Halmerend and Audley and Bignall End or Seabridge and Keele.  All these work though I marginally prefer the last one because of strength of links between Keele and Madeley.

I am pleased that all comments are published by the BCE but I am disappointed with the way they are presented for the following reasons:

  • The 3 main political party responses are highlighted, leaving me to wonder whether the responses from ordinary people are being taken seriously enough.
  • The category of ‘ordinary’ responses is too coarse, even after the late publication of response URNs by current constituency.  A comprehensive viewing for a given area is too cumbersome.
  • It would have been helpful if a report presenting the key points of respondents regarding particular geographical areas had been published.  Indeed if these responses are being seriously considered, such an analysis must be done and as no analysis is presented this adds to my doubts about ordinary people being taken seriously.  I would strongly recommend that in future reviews such an analysis is presented and that responses are tabulated by ward rather than just by constituency, to allow responses from particularly contentious areas to be easily located.
I generated a spreadsheet using the BCE one but providing URNs for the current Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region constituencies in separate sheets.  I also corrected a few mistakes.

I have read the contributions listed for the 3 current Stoke-on-Trent constituencies. 

The response from Stoke-on-Trent South was very sparse, only two responses apart from my own.  Ron Elikowski from Blurton (URN 4194) agrees with the BCE but does not elaborate.  Eric Kelsall from Trentham (URN 6621) makes comments on Newcastle-under-Lyme rather than Stoke-on-Trent.

For Stoke-on-Trent Central there are some general disagreements with the review process and some respondents comment on Newcastle-under-Lyme rather than Stoke-on-Trent.  Nicola Bishop (URN 17354) and Tristram Hunt (URN 22467) wish for Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme to be separate.  My contribution does this to a larger extent than the BCE initial proposal does.  Mohammed Pervez for Stoke-on-Trent City Council (URN 22190) is one of several responses that object to the reduction in MPs.  I agree, but I find it odd and inconsistent of Mohammed Pervez to object to this, given that it was his Labour party former government that applied the same treatment when they imposed a reduction in the number of councillors on Stoke-on-Trent.  Mohammed Pervez objects to the splitting of Burslem in two.  I agree with him on this point and my contribution solves this.  Denise Johnson (URN 19842) makes an interesting point, agreeing that Bagnall should be in Staffordshire Moorlands, as proposed by the BCE.  She lives nearby in Light Oaks in Stoke-on-Trent and presents her scathing view of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, concluding that: “I am disgusted to say I live in Stoke-on-Trent and if Staffordshire Moorlands would have Light Oaks back again I would be pleased and please for everyone’s sake please keep Bagnall Parish in the Staffordshire Moorlands”!

There are more responses for Stoke-on-Trent North.  These clearly show objections to splitting Burslem in two and cite the current and historical importance of this ‘mother’ town of the 6 towns of Stoke-on-Trent.   Some responses regret loss of the constituency name of Stoke-on-Trent North.  I agree and keep North and South in my contribution, losing Central.  Many of the responses highlight a lack of commonality with areas such as Madeley, although links to Kidsgrove and some other Northern wards of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough seem more acceptable.  As I have not had time to look at the Newcastle-under-Lyme responses I cannot draw too many conclusions, although I have looked at the Stone responses and it is clear that residents in Madeley also think there is no commonality with Northern wards of Stoke-on-Trent.  There are comments for and against including Biddulph within Stoke-on-Trent North, more for, but I have not looked at what residents of Biddulph might think and personally I agree with the neat and appropriate BCE proposal for Staffordshire Moorlands.

In the absence of any analysis of responses by BCE and without time to read the Newcastle-under-Lyme responses, I am loath to make any further suggestions than those I have already made which address most of the key points made by other Stoke-on-Trent respondents and consider knock on effects and provide solutions which work for the whole Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sub-region.  If I try to place Madeley within Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency for example, by knock on effect it adversely affects the arrangement of the Stoke-on-Trent constituencies.  The main reason for this difficulty is the large 2010 Stoke-on-Trent wards used as building blocks by the BCE under strong direction from the act of parliament and the requirement of that act to work within numerical constraints that are in my opinion too tight.  This problem will be reduced at the next review because the 2011 Stoke-on-Trent wards will be used, most of which are smaller.

Other comments

As explained above, it is difficult with the way responses were presented to get an overall picture of views.  I read the responses for all Stoke-on-Trent constituencies and Stone.  I didn’t read the Newcastle-under-Lyme ones, not because they aren’t important, just because there were so many, an indication that they are indeed important!  So my comments merely include selected ‘highlights’.

A huge number of the Stone responses did not want Newcastle-under-Lyme split.  There were however a few who argued in favour of the BCE proposal to link Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stone, but for rather odd reasons.  For example Evan Jones (URN 12509) from Barlaston cites the A34 link and the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS), where Neill Smith (URN 12946) from Stone says his son was born.  Jill Piggott (URN 13792), from Walton, Roger Barnard (URN 13834) from Fulford and Clive Barker (URN 17661) and Glennys Barker (URN 17666) from Blythe Bridge also mention the hospital, travel links and schools.  But the UHNS is in Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency and the A34 goes through Stoke-on-Trent South constituency before it gets to Newcastle-under-Lyme.  As for schools, I would have thought the majority of students go to schools more local to themselves.

There is a little Bill Cash MP fan club in Cresswell.  Lindon Horleston (URN 16939) would be sorry to lose Bill Cash and wants to keep the Stone constituency.  Jaqui Leach (URN 17340) wants Checkley, Tean and Alton to remain in Stone.  She says about Bill Cash; “I voted for him in the last election because of his hard work, good reputation and my trust in what he does”.  However B Woodward (URN 19895) from Cheadle refers to Bill Cash retiring at the next election.

A number of Stone respondents are less than complimentary about Stoke-on-Trent.  John Dale (URN 609) from Rough Close does not see the link between Stone and Newcastle-under-Lyme but would rather this than “the awful Stoke-on-Trent”Mr and Mrs Wilkes (URN 21279) from Madeley say “Stoke-on-Trent has made a mess of all they have been involved with in the recent past” and cite land sales, Ceramica and the cultural quarter.  Linda Washington (URN 16600) from Blythe Bridge would “strongly disagree with any proposal put forward by local councillors in the Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle area”B Woodward (URN 19895) presents a particularly scathing account that says: “No-one in the Staffordshire Moorlands with the remotest modicom of common sense would wish to be part of Stoke-on-Trent!  In my life-time of 72 years I have seen the City destroyed piece by piece without any intervention or support from members of parliament.  Mines were closed; the pottery industry decimated; and now the city is being laid derelict by so-called Housing Regeneration!!!”  It goes on and is well worth a read in its entirety.

I’m not a great fan of political parties but as contributions from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are highlighted by the BCE and I have read the Stafford transcripts (I could only attend at Stafford for a short time) that contain a lot from political party representatives, I make some comment.  The references I give are to the Stafford transcripts, not the party proposals and are in the form (N,M) where N is 1 or 2 corresponding to the day and M is the page number.

The Conservative approach seems to be to agree almost entirely with the BCE initial proposals.  Karen Bradeley, MP for Staffordshire Moorlands (1,32) talked positively about matching the constituency with the district council and the strong rural and industrial identity with the Moorlands that for example Biddulph, Werrington and Alton have.  She said including Cheadle in the constituency would be welcome.  She said the proposals for Newcastle-under-Lyme reduce the split between 4 constituencies to 2.  I can see her point on that but the problem is that the proposed split is too detrimental to community identity, which I think is more important.  Cllr Stephen Ellis for Cheadle West (2,89) supported the BCE proposals, saying the people of Cheadle want to return home as they are not part of Stone.  Cllr Ian Lawson for Biddulph North (2,59) explained that Biddulph has 10 strong residents’ associations and everybody seems happy with the BCE proposals.  He said people in Biddulph do not want to be “thrown in at the deep end with Stoke, of all places” “where over the years there’s been a reputation of Stoke ignoring the people, mainly by their elected representatives”.   Cllr Mark Holland for Westlands (2,4) supported the BCE initial proposals.  Ms Diana Reece (2,38), chair of Tamworth Conservative Association, welcomed Hammerwich ward to the constituency. Personally I think it would be better placed in Lichfield, but more important is what the people there think.  Mr Rob Hayward (2,25) from London, representing the Conservative party, talked about numbers of local authorities in a constituency and numbers of constituencies in a local authority.  He spoke in favour of the BCE initial proposals, especially for Staffordshire Moorlands.  He did however mention my representation!  He said “I think she gave some interesting thoughts.  I would not say whether I commend them or not but I thought they were interesting thoughts, particularly in terms of trying to link the historic towns of Stoke-on-Trent, as I understand them, while taking the part of Stoke-on-Trent that she saw as the more recent element out into a Stone constituency.”  Well, I’ll take that as a compliment, I expect it’s the closest he could get to saying he liked my proposals, given that he needs to support the party line.

The Labour proposals include some important points that I agree with, such as keeping Burslem together and keeping much of Newcastle-under-Lyme together.  But where I disagree is that they worsen the boundaries further afield, especially by taking Biddulph and Werrington out of Staffordshire Moorlands.  I doubt that this would be popular in those areas.  Contributions were made by Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North (1,22) and Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme (2,39).  I talked briefly to Paul Farrelly about their proposals at Stafford.  Paul Farrelly mentioned in his talk the 3 dales project in Newcastle-under-Lyme; Apedale, Lymedale and Silverdale.  Having been to the new park being landscaped in Silverdale, I am impressed with it.  Many other Labour politicians also talked about their proposals. Stoke-on-Trent councillors who spoke particularly objected to the BCE splitting of Burslem.  Cllr Alan Dutton for Burslem Central (1,29) gave a slightly confusing presentation as he said Stoke-on-Trent North should not gain any Newcastle Borough wards then wanted to include Newchapel.  Cllr Mohammed Pervez for Moorcroft (1,66) caused even more confusion.  Even the assistant commissioner seemed to get exasperated, saying “But I wondered, do you know what the Labour party proposals are?”  Cllr Joy Garner for Burslem Park (2,16) however gave quite a good description of how people in Stoke-on-Trent, especially Burslem, feel about their community and history, admitting that people are parochial.  Cllr Paul Shotton for Fenton East (2,36) made some economic observations.  CllrTrevor Hambleton for Bradwell reported that on 19/10/11 Newcaste-under-Lyme Borough Council passed a motion to reject the BCE proposals because of the splitting of Newcastle-under-Lyme.  Mr Michael Brereton (2,68) provided community based arguments in support of the Labour proposal.  He mentioned a proposal in the early 1990’s to form a unitary authority of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent, to which there was much opposition.  He said “the population didn’t actually turn out in smocks with pitchforks, but they got very close to it”Cllr Gareth Snell for Knutton and Silverdale (2,8) presented some good arguments with respect to Newcastle-under-Lyme wards, but it is further afield where I see the problems with the Labour proposals occurring.  I find it interesting that people other than me, Gareth Snell included, look at wheelie bins when they are out and about, to observe which council area they are in!  Mr Taylor from Westlands, (1,54) for Western Seabridge and Clayton residents’ association, does not see any cohesion between Westlands, Clayton and Seabridge and Fulford, Swynnerton, Barlaston and Stone.  Of course he is commenting against the BCE initial proposals but this may mean he would not favour at least 2 out of my 3 suggestions.  Mr Webb (1,71) and Ms Jocelyn Morrison (2,82), from Werrington, spoke in favour of Werrington being included in a Stoke-on-Trent constituency, which I find rather surprising.

The Liberal Democrat proposals are fairly complicated and a bit messy, especially in that they do not preserve the Staffordshire county boundary.  Cllr Nigel Jones for Thistleberry (1,49) speaking for the local Liberal Democrats, disagreed with the regional Liberal Democrats and agreed with Labour. Cllr David Becket for Halmerend (2,13) reported residents being opposed to being in a constituency with Kidsgrove wards and Stoke-on-Trent North.  I wonder if my proposal that includes Halmerend in a ‘West Staffordshire’ constituency with some Stoke-on-Trent South wards would be more acceptable?  I have had some very interesting and productive discussions with Cllr David Murray for Albrighton and Shifnal especially about the contentious Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stone area.  The secondary consultation comments from the Liberal Democrats will be good to see in publication in due course.

Independent councillors also gave representations. Cllr Andrew Hart for Biddulph North (2,86) reported being very involved in residents’ associations, who support the BCE proposals and do not want to be part of Stoke-on-Trent.  Cllr Jim Davies for Biddulph North (2,87) agreed.  Cllr William Day for Caverswall (2,24) reported consulting widely with residents and supported the BCE proposal for Staffordshire Moorlands.  He said a previous proposal to take Werrington out had resulted in mass protest and people would fight tooth and nail against any such proposal.  He said “I don’t represent political parties, I represent people.”

The secondary consultation comments will be published by the BCE later in the year.

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