The parliamentary boundary review – a how-to guide

In redistricting on September 16, 2011 by dadge

This article is copyright. Please link to it but it must not be reproduced without permission.

The Boundary Commission wants you to “Have Your Say”:

“The final shape of the new constituency boundaries will be informed by consultation. We encourage you to comment, whether in support of or objection to our initial proposals – we will consider all representations fairly and may revise the constituency boundaries as a result.”

But in its instructions for how to make a representation it states:

“If you plan to object to the proposals, provide a viable counter-proposal which clearly sets out, for example, the composition of each constituency as an alternative, and addresses any knock-on effects.”

Ah-ah-ah-ah. Whoa. They’re ‘avin’ a larf, innit. Please feel free to ignore that there mind-boggling advice. If you just want to say that you don’t think town/suburb/village N should be in constituency M, just say that.

But if you enjoy boggling your mind, and want to make a stab at “providing a viable counter-proposal”, this guide should at least get you started.

1. You need maps.

On the Commission’s website you’ll find maps for each region and for each constituency. For example, the regional map for the North West is at the bottom of this page and the constituency maps for Cheshire are on this page.
If you want a different part of the country, on the left-hand side of both those pages you’ll find a list you can click on.

You will probably find, if you print them off, that the regional maps cover too big an area and the constituency maps cover too small an area. No worries – just copy the regional map into a basic graphics program (even Microsoft Paint will do the job) and resize it and crop it till you’ve got the bit you’re after. Here’s the maps I’ve done for my personal use.

You might want to have a look at what the current constituencies look like, so you can compare them with the Commission’s proposals. The maps are available online in two huge pdf’s:
non-metropolitan counties
metropolitan counties
and they even include maps of what the constituencies were like at the 2005 election, just for good measure. (Note the colour coding: old (2005) boundaries in red, current (2010) boundaries in blue.)

Another way of seeing where the current ward and constituency boundaries lie is to use the Election Maps website.

2. You need data.

The 2011 electorates of every county, unitary authority, borough and district can be found at the COI website (on this page). n.b. The “electoral quota” figures relate to the old rules so you can ignore them. To calculate the electoral quota under the new rules, divide the electorate by 76,641. For example, the electorate of the Wirral (near the top of the list, under Merseyside) is 239,479. 239479 divided by 76641 gives 3.12, which means that the Wirral metropolitan borough is entitled to just over 3 seats. The next step (if you can bear it!) is to divide 239479 by 3 seats, and you get 79,826. As you can see, that’s within the allowable limits, so it appears to be theoretically possible to divide the Wirral up into three seats without any of them breaking the border with Cheshire West. In practice, it’s probably not possible. Have a go and see how you get on. Remember, none of the seats you come up with may have an electorate below 72,810 or above 80,473.

The 2011 electorates of every current constituency can be found in this parliamentary report (on this page). The “difference from UK mean” column shows you which seats are too big or too small. Checking Birkenhead, Wallasey, Wirral West and Wirral South you can see that, unsurprisingly, all four are well below average.

Finally, the ward-level data. Wards are the building blocks, and although the Commission has been given leave to split them in exceptional circumstances, it hasn’t split any yet. You can find the ward electorates in each region’s initial proposals report. The link to the report for the North West is just above the link to the map for the North West, at the bottom of this page. The ward electorates are also available in a spreadsheet, under “electoral statistics” on the same page.

3. You need a calculator.

Where shall we begin? Let’s say you want to take Bidston out of Wallasey and replace it with Hoylake (as I’m sure will eventually happen), then 75519 (proposed electorate) – 9787 (Bidston) + 10439 (Hoylake) = 76171 (new total). Easy. Unfortunately, it gets much more complicated as you venture deeper into the review areas and the knock-on effects multiply, but I know some people enjoy this kind of thing. 🙂

If you decide you want to split a ward, for the time being you’ll have to estimate how many electors from it you’re going to put into each seat. You could try emailing the Commission or the local council to obtain the sub-ward-level data (most wards are divided into enumeration districts, and the electorate for each one is held on file… somewhere) – let me know how you get on!

Any questions? Just ask, and I’ll add things to this guide as we go along. Happy commenting!


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