Following a decision by Parliament to reduce the number of constituencies in the UK from 650 to 600 and to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is equal, the independent Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has been asked to make recommendations about where the boundaries of English constituencies should be.
An initial 12-week consultation was held in the autumn last year, giving the public the first chance to view and comment on BCE’s plans. Almost 20,000 responses were submitted.
Strong community evidence was received from across the North East, both supporting and countering BCE’s initial proposals.
Representations covered a wide variety of topics, including questioning the merits of adding Ashington to the rural north Northumberland constituency of Berwick, removing Rothbury from Berwick despite its natural ties, splitting Stakeford and Choppington across boundaries and the fact that Ponteland East and Stannington would be in the proposed Newcastle upon Tyne North West constituency.
All of these comments have now been published as part of the second consultation and, from today, you will be able to go to BCE’s website, www.bce2018.org.uk, to view the comments received during the first consultation.
You can support counter-proposals, highlight issues with alternative ideas and say where you think BCE’s original proposals are still the best solution up until Monday, March 27.
The report on the proposals for the North East explained that the BCE has ‘needed to make substantial changes to the existing constituencies’ in Northumberland due to the numbers of electors in the current constituencies:
• The proposed Berwick and Ashington constituency retains 13 wards from the existing constituency. Eight wards would be added to this constituency, including the town of Ashington, from the existing Wansbeck constituency. This reconfiguration results in a Berwick and Ashington constituency that extends down the North Sea coast to the north bank of the River Wansbeck and includes the Choppington ward to the south.
• The proposed Hexham and Morpeth constituency has retained 15 wards of the existing Hexham constituency and has had five wards, including the town of Morpeth, from the existing Wansbeck constituency transferred to it, as well as the divided wards of Longhorsley and Pegswood and four wards from the existing Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency, including Rothbury.
• The proposed Blyth Valley constituency has retained 17 wards of the existing constituency and has had five wards from the existing Wansbeck constituency transferred to it, which has enabled the three Bedlington wards to be kept together in a constituency.
• While the BCE is obliged to take into account local-government boundaries, the proposed constituency of Newcastle upon Tyne North West crosses the county boundary of Northumberland, with the inclusion of the Ponteland East and Stannington ward from the existing Wansbeck constituency.
Sam Hartley, secretary to the BCE, said: “Public input is invaluable throughout the 2018 review. Comments made during both consultations will help us develop a well-rounded picture of how local communities live and work together across the country. This local knowledge will be essential when we revise our proposals. Any changes will be based on your comments so it’s important to have your say.”
Following the second consultation, the BCE’s assistant commissioners will look through all comments received during both consultations, considering all the evidence submitted. They will then advise the Commission on where they think the proposals should be revised.
Revised proposals will be published as part of a final consultation in late 2017/early 2018. BCE must report to Parliament with its final recommendation in September 2018. If agreed by Parliament, the new constituencies will be in use at the next scheduled General Election in 2020.