Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Boundary changes

There is a consultation at the moment about proposed boundaries for parliamentary constituencies in the North West, held by the Boundary Commission for England, They have been holding hearings in Carlisle yesterday and today, which are open to the public. I went ahead to have my say.

The Boundary Commission is an impartial body set up to review constituency boundaries on a regular basis defined by law to ensure that they reflect where people now live. Since 2011 it has been part of their remit to ensure that within a defined limits constituencies have the same number of  electors so that the vote of a resident of, say Barrow, is the same proportion of the electorate as a voter in, say, Witney.

They have put forward new proposals for the North West which you can find and read at

https://www.bce2018.org.uk/node/6487

If you have views on this you can make them known up to 5th December by responding to the consultation, which can be done using the above link.

I gave evidence in support of the Boundary Commissions proposals for Cumbria.

The geography of Cumbria, particularly the number of lakes and mountains, make it difficult to assemble five constituencies with a common interest and there are a limited number of ways you can do it.

The initial set of proposals the Boundary Commission first put forward in the last parliament were a classic example of this problem, including as they did a Copeland and Windermere seat where the two main areas had the highest mountain and deepest lake in England between them and the only direct route running over Hardknott pass, the alternative being a two-hour journey around the lakes and mountains.

It makes far more sense, as in the revised proposal which came out of public consultation last time, and in the BCE's present proposals for Cumbria, to put the main West Cumbrian centres of Whitehaven and Workington together: despite a degree of friendly (and sometimes no-so-friendly) rivalry between these towns there is a significant common interest.

The Commission is also proposing 

* A Carlisle constituency coterminous with Carlisle City Council, which is obviously sensible

* A Penrith and Solway constituency, similar to the one the late Willie Whitelaw used to represent.

 
There are some issues on exactly where the border should like between the new Whitehaven and Workington constituency and the Barrow constituency to the south.

 
The town of Ulverston, which is currently in the Barrow and Furness constituency should obviously stay together as a unit and it would be difficult to draw a sensible Barrow constituency of the right size which did not include it. To reach the minimum size the Barrow constituency also needs to take in some of South Copeland.

 
There is a "Furness Peninsulas" community based along the West Coast Road (e.g. the A595 & A590 between Barrow, Millom and Sellafield) with people from Barrow travelling to work at Sellafield and people from Millom travelling both south to Barrow to work at BAE and North to Sellafield to work there.
 
The current BCE proposals have a strong geographical border at Ravenglass - this would make a lot more sense than splitting Tavenglass and Bootle off from the "Millom Without" ward.
 
However, there is also a strong case for putting Seascale in with Barrow. This would put more of the South West Coast community into the same constituency and hopefully mean that there would be one MP with the ability and incentive to fight for a solution to the transport problems between Barrow and Sellafield, such as the de-trunking of the route and the need to look again at imaginative solutions such as the Duddon Bridge.

If you have views on this, Tell the Boundary Commission what they are.

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