Electoral Boundaries for Cornwall Council set to change

For the last few years, Cornwall Council has been undertaking a boundary review of its divisional area. Currently there are 123 elected councillors in 122 divisions. From 2021 this is set to change. Change is sometimes good and it is right to look at how people are represented and the boundaries to reflect a community. However, Cornwall has been so many boundary changes since 2009. You could almost say no one election has been fought on the same boundary lines.

This boundary review is in simple terms being inflicted upon Cornwall. It is not about how best Cornwall Council can represent the people, rather than the Boundary Commission coming up with a figure and telling the Council to make it work.

The council has spent a lot of time arriving at a figure (99 Councillors) that not only reduced numbers, but also brought equity to the number of electors per division. However that was dismissed by the Commission as still too high. Basically, the Boundary Commission want no more than 88. It would have just been simpler if the Commission had just said a figure at the outset, rather than the ruse of thinking the Council could have some say in the numbers.

With such wholesale boundary changes, electoral divisions such as Porthleven and Helston will see a massive change. With the plan for 87 Councillors, Porthleven will no longer have part of Helston within its division, but instead will be joined with Breage, Germoe and Praa Sands to form one division called Porthleven, Breage and Germoe.

As the following picture (11) shows the new boundary for the electoral division of Porthleven, Breage and Germoe

Helston will have two electoral division of Helston North (13)

and Helston South which will include Meneage (14)

As you can see, there is wholesale changes to the boundaries with settlements being put together that have limited connection apart from being geographically close.

No scheme is going to be universally supported and with any review there will be changes. but the problem with this is Cornwall has been given a number and the new divisions have been created on trying to achieve that number, rather on what communities want.

Even though Cornwall Council officially has supported the 87 number formed into the following divisional boundaries (HERE), the Boundary Commission can totally ignore – as it has on other submissions – and come up with its own figure and its own boundaries. And there is little anyone can do as the Commission answers to no-one.

Cornwall Council goes for the Mr Whippy option for the number of Councillors

As part of Cornwall Council’s Devolution deal, there was a requirement for the Council to look at how it is governed. This includes the number of Councillors who serve at the Council. For those who do not know, there are 123 Councillors.  It is easy to say there are too many, but this is often from a viewpoint of not knowing the role. In Cornwall we also have the difficulty of rurality where we have any small settlements. So too big of an area, makes it difficult to cover.

The Boundary Commission – who ultimately will set the number of Councillors – wanted the review to take place in time for the May 2017 elections. This was impossible to do, and the Council successfully argued for the review to take place, but not implemented till the 2021 elections. This is not about turkeys voting for Christmas, but making sure there is fair representation, and electoral boundaries reflect Cornwall’s settlements.

A lot of work has been undertaken with engagement from lots of different areas including town and parish councils, businesses and other public sector bodies. In gathering evidence, it is clear there are some divisions that have a low number of electors – some too many. These are not in-line with the Boundary Commission own rules, and the Commission is right in asking for a review.

Today, at the full meeting of Cornwall Council the debated and voted on its recommendation for the new size of the Council. This number is for 99 Councillors. This overcomes many of the issues raised by the Commission. The Tory’s want a lower number of 85, but this was resoundingly defeated.

A vote was taken (recorded) and it was approved that Cornwall Council would submitted its recommendation for 99 Councillors by 66 in favour, 13 against and one Abstention.

For those who want to read and understand the whole process and documentation by clicking HERE. There is a lot of documentation.

At the end of the day, it will be the Boundary Commission we set the numbers using their own methods and evidence.


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.







Boundary Commission extends Cornwall’s electoral review till March 2017

The Leader of Cornwall Council, along with all the political group leaders at Cornwall, and with support from some of Cornwall’s MP’s wrote to the Boundary Commission to highlight the boundary review was not feasible in the period outlined by the Commission when they visited Cornwall in the latter part of 2015.

In exceptional circumstances, the Boundary Commission, have decided in light of the evidence submitted, have extended the review till March 2017. This means there will be no changes to Cornwall’s Boundaries, or the number of elected councillors for the election in 2017. This has been confirmed in writing by the Boundary Commission today.

The review will take place – and rightly so – but it will be on a timeline that is achievable and will be able to take into consideration the right evidence. If this extension was not granted, then Cornwall’s election in 2017 would have been a rushed job.

Furthermore, the Boundary Commission has made it clear a review will happen, and just because the deadline has been extended, the work must start now. The new boundaries will need to be in place in time for the 2021 Cornwall Council elections, unless the Council seeks permission to hold an out-of-turn election.

My view is this extension is welcomed. However, it is right that Cornwall Council looks at its number of elected officials on what is right for Cornwall, and not some arbitrary figure decided by a body from out Cornwall. Pre 2010, Cornwall had 346 councillors on primary authorities (district and county). Now it has 123.

Now we have to get on with the work by having the right number of councillors that will reflect Cornwall’s need for the future. This is not Turkey’s voting for Xmas.