Articles

Is Halton the whipping boy?

In Birmingham, Cheshire, Merseyside, North West, redistricting on October 20, 2011 by dadge

One of the consequences of the 5% Law is that particular communities get, what’s the best word, leeched? cannibalised? to satisfy the needs of the Boundary Commission. Depending on which metaphor you prefer, their blood or their body parts are removed to give life to constituencies in bigger neighbours. (The technical term I use for this is tacking.)

The relationship of Cheshire to Halton (a council formed from the towns of Widnes and Runcorn) is a case in point. In order to satisfy the requirement for electoral equality – and god forbid that anyone might split a ward instead – the Commission and the political parties have all come up with plans that butcher/drain the district.

Halton has an electorate of 92,550 so at least 12,000 voters do have to find a home in another constituency, and currently some Runcorn wards are in the Weaver Vale seat. That seat’s being abolished, so another home needs to be found. In my plan Cheshire is “full up” so I’ve put some Widnes wards in the St Helen’s South seat.

Whether you like that or not, at least I’ve maintained the principle of only dividing Halton between two seats. Dividing Halton between three seats, as under the Boundary Commission or Lib Dem plans, or four (!) seats, as under the Tory and Labour plans, is unfortunate to say the least, and is not a product of any deep thought about the ties that particular wards have with neighbouring areas*, but simply about making the numbers up in other seats.

*Notice that some of the areas that the main proposals link Halton with are hardly “neighbouring” at all, such is the desperation that is caused by the mania not to split any Cheshire wards. The Commission links Ditton with Bromborough (20 miles), Labour link Beechwood with Chester (15 miles), and the Tories link the eastern edge of Runcorn with Alderley Edge (20 miles).

And the same thing is happening around the country, where, for example, instead of reviewing Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds on their own, with a couple of split wards in each, the Commission is leeching their smaller neighbours.

If splitting wards causes a bit of suffering to the communities in these cities or in Cheshire, isn’t that at least fairer than causing suffering to the communities in their neighbouring areas, whose only crime is to live nextdoor, and where towns are being divided just in order to make life a bit easier for the Commission and its political allies?

If you’d like to make a comment to the Commission about its policy with regard to tacking, you can email them.

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