Articles

Ask Locus: Can Birmingham be reviewed on its own?

In Birmingham, electoral register, redistricting on October 4, 2011 by dadge

Over on the Re-Stirred forum, bunnyson asks:

Is it possible for Birmingham to be redrawn, using current wards, without grabbing Solihull or other authorities’ wards?

Just by using current wards, no.

Birmingham, with an electorate of 731,731, is entitled to just over 9 and a half seats. If the Commission gives it 10 seats, the average size would be 73,173. The legal minimum size is 72,810 so it is possible to review the city on its own, just very messy.

It’d be nice if all the 40 wards were the same size, but they vary from 16,461 (Erdington) to 20,011 (Springfield). The current Erdington constituency has an electorate of 67,598, i.e. more than 5,000 short of the required number, and I guarantee that there is no combination of whole wards in north Birmingham that could create a seat of the required size.

So, the only way is ward-splitting. A better mathematician than me could work out how many of the city’s wards would have to be sliced up, but it would be a lot.

And if we went down that route, the main people to suffer would be the voters of Solihull and Warwickshire. Together they’re entitled to just under 7 and a half seats, so if Birmingham gets 10, they’d get 7. Except that wouldn’t be possible, since that’d mean an average seat size of 81,243, well above the legal limit. So just to keep their seats down to around 80,000 they’d have to give 9,000 voters to Coventry, and to accommodate them you’d have to split a couple of wards in Coventry.

Anyway, we’d end up with 10 seats in Birmingham with 73,000 voters in each, 7 in Warwickshire and Solihull with 80,000 voters in each and 3 in Coventry with 75,000 in one and 80,000 in the other two. It doesn’t sound too bad, I suppose, but it is a bit unfair and (more importantly) it tears up the electoral map.

Postscript 1: There is a point of view that says that if a city is entitled to X number of seats, then just give it those seats, and leave it up to the cityfolk to apportion them. Unfortunately (?) the powers that be decided that 5% law doesn’t apply to local authorities, it applies to individual seats.

Postscript 2: It’s widely regarded to be true (and having done some canvassing myself, I agree) that there’s thousands of people missing off the electoral roll in Birmingham. If we can somehow get those people onto the roll, maybe we could get our extra half an MP back.

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