Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Boundary Review 2018 - 1st blog


I wrote previously about the Boundary Review 2013, which was set to revise the parliamentary constituency boundaries but was halted by government after nearing completion, following a disagreement within the then Conservative Lib-dem coalition.

My last blog on this contains links also to my previous blogs. The Boundary Commission for England has moved information on the previous review to archive.

Boundary Review 2018

Despite the name, which refers to the end of the review in 2018, the current review was launched on 24 February 2016 with the relevant electorate data.  The number of constituencies in the UK is reducing from 650 to 600, the number in England is reducing from 533 to 501.

The next step will be the publication by the Commission, on 13 September, of their initial proposals. There will be a 12 week consultation. I would encourage everyone to have their say. In the last review I found the Commission considered people's views very well and were very receptive to alternative ideas. Comments will be possible via their website or in person at public hearings around the country.

My proposals

I live in Hanford & Trentham ward in Stoke-on-Trent.

I have drafted my own proposals for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. My starting point was my previous proposal but since then clearly the electorate numbers have changed and local government boundary reviews result in different wards being used in the Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford and Lichfield local authority (LA) areas. So using current data and drawing on experience gained from the aborted review, I arrive at my proposal version 1. I have included only a spreadsheet because I worry about copyright for publishing maps, but the relevant wards and LA areas can be viewed on Election Maps.

A review would run periodically every 5 years. For subsequent reviews it would make sense to place a high priority on minimal changes to constituencies just to account for changes in electorate numbers, but for the present review it makes no sense to me to be too concerned about current constituencies as the changes have to be major anyway, to reduce the total number. My priorities have therefore been to keep communities together that have similar geographical area and character and to try to match constituencies to local authority areas, subject to the very tight constraints on electorate numbers that must be adhered to.

I arrived at 3 slightly different proposals. They only differ in the Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford LA areas. In some cases the LA numbers neatly fit to a single constituency, resulting in Cannock Chase and Staffordshire Moorlands constituencies. Lichfield would too except Tamworth is too small without taking wards from Lichfield LA with Tamworth LA wards to give Tamworth Constituency. Most of East Staffordshire can form one constituency, with 3 wards going to the Lichfield constituency. My preferred name would be East Staffordshire constituency but I have listed Burton as an alternative name because I recall from the last review this being favoured by people living in that area. Unfortunately the Lichfield constituency is not big enough without taking one ward from Stafford LA, which is a little messy but I cannot find a better alternative. Most of South Staffordshire LA can form a South Staffordshire constituency, with 3 wards going to the Stafford constituency. 5 Stafford LA wards need to then go into the remaining 3 constituencies.

The three different proposals 1a, 1b and 1c are different ways of arranging the 5 Stafford wards together with Newcastle-under-Lyme LA and Stoke-on-Trent LA wards. In many ways Stoke-on-Trent is the most difficult to deal with because it has electorate numbers of 2.4 times the number for one constituency, so is too big to make 2 constituencies but too small for 3. I recall from the previous review that there seemed to be more willingness from those living in the Northern rather than the Southern Newcastle-under-Lyme wards to combine with Stoke-on-Trent. In Stoke-on-Trent it is important for each of the 6 towns to fit in a constituency without being split.

Proposal 1a takes 4 wards around Kidsgrove with the Northern part of Stoke-on-Trent, neatly encompassing Tunstall and Burslem, to form Stoke-on-Trent North constituency. Much of the rest of urban Stoke-on-Trent, encompassing Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton, forms Stoke-on-Trent South constituency. This achieves all 6 towns in 2 constituencies, leaving the Southern most suburban Stoke-on-Trent wards to combine with the 5 Stafford wards to form West Staffordshire constituency. The slight disadvantage of this proposal is that 3 wards; Dresden & Florence, Hollybush & Longton West and Lightwood North & Normacot, that would normally be more associated with Longton, are split from it, but the A50 does separate them in any case.

Proposal 1b aims to solve the disadvantage of 1a by putting the relevant wards into Stoke-on-Trent South and moving 2 wards; Birches Head & Central Forest Park and Etruria and Hanley, into Stoke-on-Trent North. This quite neatly sorts out the 6 towns, with Tunstall, Burslem and Hanley in the North and Stoke, Fenton and Longton in the South. But it does mean having just a lone Newcastle-under-lyme ward, Newchapel, in Stoke-on-Trent North and bringing Loggerheads & Whitmore and Madeley out of Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency into West Staffordshire constituency. I think this is messier for Newcastle-under-Lyme and means having 3 LAs rather than 2 in West Staffordshire. So I favour 1a over 1b.

Proposal 1c is an experiment with a more radical approach to solve the issues with proposals 1a and 1b. It uses the same Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent North constituencies as 1a. But the other wards are arranged into Stoke-on-Trent East and Stoke-on-Trent West & Stone. This works and the 6 towns are neatly arranged 2 in each constituency but the Stoke-on-Trent West & Stone constituency I do not think is especially desirable because it combines very urban and quite rural areas. So I favour 1a over 1c.

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