Boundary Commission for England visits Cornwall Council to set out the terms of the electoral review

Today, the Head of the Boundary Commission for England (BC) visited Cornwall Council to explain in person, the reason for the boundary review for Cornwall Council’s electoral divisions, and the process of that review. With all being well, the new divisional boundaries will be come into effect in 2021.

The Boundary Commission base their decisions on the number of electors in a division and not the total population. This means it is vital that all those who are eligible to vote, need to register to vote. Or else a new boundary could be set on flawed numbers.

The reason for the review is two-fold. The first is as part of the devolution deal, we said we would do a review. The second is because a third of Cornwall Council’s electoral divisions have an electoral variance of greater than 10%. In numbers this is 37 out of 122 electoral divisions (30%) There are also three divisions with variances above 30%. This would trigger a review under the BC rules.

Number of Electoral divisions > 10% 37 % Electoral divisions > 10%
Number of Electoral divisions> 20% 8 % Electoral divisions > 20%
Number of Electoral divisions > 30% 2 % Electoral divisions > 30%
Number of Electoral divisions > 40% 1 % Electoral divisions > 40%

Even though there is no English average for the number of residents a councilor represents, there are large differences in Cornwall. The greatest is Redruth North with 4,557 electors a variance of 33.6% over Cornwall’s average. The lowest, Liskeard North with 1372 electors, 59.8% less than the average.

The electoral divisions with the largest variances are:

Liskeard North 1,372 1 -59.80%
Looe East 2,639 1 -22.70%
Crowan and Wendron 4,367 1 29.00%
Altarnun 2,601 1 -23.10%
Penryn East and Mylor 4,096 1 20.00%
Redruth North 4,557 1 33.60%
St. Minver and St. Endellion 2,418 1 -29.10%

Porthleven and Helston West:

Porthleven and Helston West 3,375 1 -1.1%

Helston North and South:

Helston North 3,652 1 7.0%
Helston South 4,003 1 18.3%

When you look at the reasoning why there is a necessity to have the review, I fully support it. According to the BC, they would like to see variances as close to zero, but understand this is not feasible. The more you move away from the zero figure, the stronger the justification has to be. Getting your all boundaries under 10% would be acceptable to the BC.

For me it is not about the numbers of elected councillors, but fair representation. However, Cornwall has had over the years a reduction on its elected representatives – which I will cover in other blog post.

The electoral review will have two distinct parts:

  • Council size – before the Boundary Commission re-draws division boundaries, the Commission will come to a view on the total number of councillors to be elected to the council in future. We will come to a conclusion on council size after hearing the council’s (and/or councillors’) views during the preliminary phase.
  • Division boundaries – the Boundary Commission will re-draw division boundaries so that they meet our statutory criteria.

The first part of the review will determine the total number of councillors to be elected to the council in the future. The Boundary Commission calls this ‘council size’. They will not consider ward boundaries until this phase has been completed.

The Commission will make its judgment on council size by considering three broad areas:

  • It will look at the governance arrangements of the council and how it takes decisions across the broad range of its responsibilities.
  • The Commission will look at the council’s scrutiny functions relating to its own decision making and the council’s responsibilities to outside bodies.
  • The Commission will also consider the representational role of councillors in the local community and how they engage with people, conduct casework and represent the council on local partner organisations.

The Commission will draw up new electoral arrangements that provide the best balance of our statutory criteria. The criteria include three main elements:

  • Delivering electoral equality for local voters – this means ensuring that each councillor represents roughly the same number of voters so that the value of your vote is the same regardless of where you live in the local authority area.
  • Interests and identities of local communities – this means establishing electoral arrangements which, as far as possible, avoid splitting local ties and where boundaries are easily identifiable.
  • Effective and convenient local government – this means ensuring that the wards can be represented effectively by their elected representative(s) and that the new electoral arrangements as a whole, including both the council size decision and wading arrangements, allow the local authority to conduct its business effectively.

Will parishes be affected? Put simply, no. As the Boundary Commission have no powers to alter the external boundaries of local parishes. However, if the recommendations propose to divide parishes between divisions, the BC will alter the electoral arrangements of that parish to create parish wards. They can also make changes to the years in which parish council elections take place so that they do so in the same years as district elections in their associated divisions.

The Council has started its review and will have to make its draft submission by 14th October 2016, its second draft submission by 16th December 2016 and the final submission by 3rd March 2017.

The BC will carry out two phases of public consultation when they will invite the public to present your proposals for new division boundaries. Stage One – public consultation on new ward boundaries, 16 May 2017 – 31 July 2017 and Draft recommendations – public consultation 24 October 2017 – 19 December 2017.

The first phase will be our Stage One consultation which will ask for proposals on new division boundaries. The BC will use responses to that consultation to draw up draft recommendations for new boundaries across your area and then they will hold a second phase of consultation on those proposals during which time you will be able to comment on them and propose alternatives.

Once all the stages have passed the new boundaries are approved by what is called Negative Resolution Procedure. Basically this means many copies are placed in key locations of Parliament, and if no MP or Lord objects, it is automatically approved on the 41st.

One the new boundaries have been approved, these new divisions will be set for at least 10 to 15 years. Therefore, it is vital this is done right, as the Cornwall Council divisions have not stayed the same since 2009, when Cornwall Council came into being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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