How the Boundary Commission’s proposals are a migraine for councillors, activists and voters

The Boundary Commission appear to have taken no account of local authority boundaries when drawing up thier proposals, which are a subsequent mess.

The main political coverage of the Boundary Commission’s proposed changes to the constituency make up of the UK has focussed, predictably on two main questions: which heavyweight politicians now face a battle for a seat, and which party has ‘lost out’.

However, just as important to many councillors and party activists is how the new proposed boundaries relate, or not, to local authority boundaries. Research (xls) by Left Foot Forward has found that of 502 constiunecies, only a minority of 44 per cent (222 in total) fall within one local authority.

The commonsensical way of organising a party is by regions, which is divided into local authorities, then into constituencies and finally into wards.

For  the majority of Conservative associations, constituency Labour parties and Liberal Democrat associations, this is no longer an option and makes organising voluntary political activity that much harder. Of the 218 constituencies which are spread over two local authorities 56 have orphan wards – wards which are the only one that belong to their local authority in that constituency.

However, there will be even more difficulties for the 55 constituencies spread over three local authorities, and indeed the seven spread over four: Arundel and South Downs, Blandford and Wimborne, Central Devon, Lancaster, Malton, Sherwood, Tavistock and Plympton.

Other problems include questions of how Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships which bring together emergency services, local authorities, and public, private and voluntary sector agencies to reduce crime will work. Councillors will have to work with MPs on issues which may only cover a small part of their constituency.

There are also examples of constituencies – such as Newcastle North and Cramlington – that cover both Metropolitan Councils and County councils, with different levels of responsibility, leading to further confusion of who to lobby about what. Meanwhile some local authorities such as Lambeth, will have to deal with six MPs.

This is all likely to add further confusion for the average voter, in terms of which jurisdiction they are in for what purpose. There are naming issues which can be solved quite simply – part of Salford is in Manchester Central, not a union the residents of that proud city will be too pleased with.

But the bigger shame is that the reorganisation, as it stands, will make political activity harder for grassroots volunteers. While lots of grandoise plans are mooted to reengage individuals in political activism, we could at least start by making the process simpler for activists.

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