Archive for the ‘boundary commission’ Category


2018 Review: constituency names

In boundary commission on December 11, 2017 by dadge


North Durham & Chester-le-Street > North Durham

North Durham includes Chester-le-Street so there’s no need to add it to the name.

Stockton & Yarm > Stockton

Yarm is only 10% of the seat.

Middlesbrough South & Thornaby > West Cleveland

More succinct.


Goole & Axholme > Goole OR Boothferry

Since Howden(shire) is not included in the name, it’s not clear why Axholme is.

Great Grimsby North & Barton > Grimsby North

Great Grimsby South & Cleethorpes > Grimsby South & Cleethorpes

For the sake of brevity.

Upper Calder > Halifax

It’d be a great pity to lose the name of such an important town.

Wentworth & Dearne > Wentworth

Seat no longer contains Dearne.

Sheffield North & Ecclesfield > Sheffield North

One or the other. Ecclesfield is in north Sheffield.


West Cumbria > West Cumberland

Because that’s where it is.

Oldham > Oldham North (West)

Failsworth & Droylsden > Oldham South & Droylsden

Oldham is split between these two seats.

Widnes & Runcorn > Halton

Bebington & Heswall > Wirral West

Altrincham & Knutsford > Tatton



Broxtowe & Hucknall > Broxtowe

Hucknall is not in Broxtowe district but was traditionally in Broxtowe constituency.

Corby & East Northamptonshire > East Northamptonshire

Corby is in East Northants.


Stoke-on-Trent North & Kidsgrove > Stoke North

The seat already contains Kidsgrove.

Aldridge, Brownhills & Bloxwich > Walsall Wood

Walsall & Oscott > Walsall Town

For brevity and to differentiate from the borough.

Birmingham Erdington & Perry Barr> Birmingham Erdington

Only one ward from BPB is in the new seat.

Birmingham Edgbaston & Selly Oak> Birmingham Edgbaston

Only one ward from BSO is in the new seat. S. Oak ward doesn’t include all of S. Oak.

Birmingham Yardley > Birmingham Small Heath

Quite a bit of Yardley is missing from the new seat. BSH is a traditional name.

Darlaston & Tipton > Wednesbury

W. is the main and central town in the seat.

Dudley > Dudley Castle OR Dudley West

Quite a lot of Dudley is missing from the seat. Also for differentiation from the borough.

Hereford & South Herefordshire > Hereford

Revert to previous, and simpler, name.


Central Suffolk & North Ipswich > Central Suffolk


Huntingdon & St Neots > Huntingdon



Chipping Barnet > Barnet & Finchley West

Finchley & Enfield Southgate > Southgate & Finchley East

Finchley is divided between these seats.

Hillingdon & Uxbridge > Uxbridge & Northolt

Acknowledging this is a 2-borough seat.

Ealing & Acton > Acton & Ealing Central

Only includes part of Ealing.

Kilburn > Paddington & Kilburn

A more accurate name.

Camden & St Pancras > St Pancras (& Archway)

Camden is the borough. St Pancras includes Camden Town.

Islington > Islington South & Finsbury

Seat has hardly changed.

Isleworth, Brentford & Chiswick > Brentford & Isleworth

Seat changes don’t justify this name change.


Hove & Regency > Hove

“Regency” isn’t a place; the ward is only 8% of the seat.

Lewes & Uckfield > Lewes


Mid Kent & Ticehurst > Mid Kent

Ticehurst is less than 5% of the seat.

East Thanet & Sandwich > South Thanet OR East Thanet

Sandwich is already in the seat.

North Kent Coastal > North Kent Coast

The adjectival ending serves no purpose.

Chatham & The Mallings > Chatham & Aylesford


Rochester & Strood > Rochester

Strood is in Rochester.


Dursley, Thornbury & Yate > Thornbury & Yate


Yeovil & South Somerset > Yeovil

Continuity. Seat hasn’t changed.

Plympton, Tavistock & Ivybridge > South West Devon

Continuity; simplification.

Falmouth, Camborne & Redruth > Falmouth & Camborne

Seat is similar to former seat.




2018 Review – West Midlands v2.0

In Birmingham,boundary changes,boundary commission,Coventry,Dudley,News,redistricting,Sandwell,Stoke,Walsall,Warwickshire,West Midlands,West Midlands county,Wolverhampton on October 23, 2017 by dadge

The Commission has published its revised recommendations, and there are many improvements. Warwickshire will now have the sensible arrangement of seats that had been obvious to everyone except the Commission. And they have accepted my proposals for Stoke and Newcastle, which is nice.

The map of Birmingham and the Black Country is looking a bit better, but there are still the following (main) problems:

  1. Pleck removed from Walsall*
  2. Oscott ward in a Walsall seat*
  3. Handsworth Wood in a Sandwell seat
  4. Handsworth split between seats
  5. Oddly shaped Erdington seat going up to the Scott Arms*
  6. Smethwick split between three constituencies*
  7. East Smethwick in a Birmingham seat*
  8. Nechells in a sinuous Yardley seat*
  9. Yardley split between seats
  10. Rubery in a Birmingham seat
  11. Netherton in the Halesowen & Rowley Regis seat*
  12. Dudley town split between seats*
  13. East Dudley town in a Sandwell seat*
  14. Friar Park ward not in the Wednesbury seat*
  15. Greets Green in the Tipton seat*

My counter-proposal (interactive map) solves 11 of those 15 problems (shown by stars), but creates five new ones:

  1. Perry Barr in a Sandwell seat
  2. Yew Tree in a Walsall seat
  3. Castle Vale in the Hodge Hill seat
  4. Bearwood and part of Oldbury in a Birmingham seat
  5. Rowley Regis split between seats

But I think that reducing the overall number of problems from 15 to 9 is quite good going. Also, I’d say we go from having eight bad constituencies (out of 20) to just one (can you guess which one?!) so I think that’s definitely an improvement. Excluding the seats in Wolverhampton and Sutton (which have general support), my proposed seats are:

  1. Aldridge, Brownhills & Bloxwich 76572
    18. Walsall 73255
    14. Sandwell Valley 76523
    4. Erdington 73557*
    6. Hodge Hill 77643* (includes Castle Vale DLC DLG DLH)
    3. Birmingham Central* 77926
    9. Small Heath 77267* (includes Bordesley Green CTH CTI CTJ CTK)
    5. Hall Green 72658*
    7. Kings Norton 71831* (includes Swanshurst Park DEG)
    8. Northfield 75118
    11. Edgbaston & Warley South 76863
    19. Warley North 71590
    20. Wednesbury, Tipton & Darlaston 72803
    10. Dudley 78270*
    16. Stourbridge 72591* (includes Brockmoor J05 J06 J07)
    12. Halesowen & Cradley Heath 78132

The stars indicate seats that include parts of split wards. (I have 4 split wards compared to the Commission’s 3.) Seats in bold include wards from two boroughs. (I have 8 compared with the Commission’s 9. Not a big difference there, but this counter-proposal doesn’t make wholesale changes. In an ideal world we’d be looking at something like my original plan, which only had 3 cross-border seats.)

Map of seats listed above:

bce bbc0

If you prefer all or part of this plan to the Commission’s proposals, email them by 11/12/17 at


How to produce a fair arrangement of constituencies

In boundary changes,boundary commission,redistricting on July 18, 2015 by dadge

Just before the general election, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons issued a report on the parliamentary boundary review system. Sensibly, they recommended that the 5% rule be replaced with a 10% rule, i.e. that seats can have electorates up to 10 per cent above or below the average. But otherwise the report is quite conservative in its conclusions.

My input was as follows:

This submission is divided into two parts: recommendations within the current framework; and recommendations for a new framework.


In order to work effectively, Britain’s First Past The Post System requires a fair arrangement of constituencies.


PART A: Recommendations within the current framework


  1. Some of the current problems with seat distribution are caused by the philosophy of “minimum change”. Minimum change leads to the perpetuation of arrangements of seats which contribute to the unfairness of the system. For example, smaller seats tend to stay smaller, marginals tend to stay marginals, and so on. The arrangement of constituencies is not for anyone’s convenience, least of all that of political parties, it’s for the effective and fair representation of voters and their communities, and hence each review should start with a blank canvas, as it were, rather than any attempt being made to keep changes to a minimum.
  2. In order to reduce the disruption this causes, the period between reviews should be as long as possible. Given that each review is allowed to make wholesale changes, and these will take time to get used to, I would suggest that the period be 15 years. Interim reviews can take place where constituencies grow or shrink very quickly.
  3. While the review areas at previous Reviews had often been too small, e.g. Northumberland, the Wirral, and the London boroughs, such that constituencies varied wildly in size, the policy at the last review changed to what I call “amorphous blobbism”: regional review areas with very little respect for the boundaries within them. All sorts of unnatural cross-border constituencies were recommended, many of which were removed on appeal. For reasons of tradition, belonging, and practicality it’s good to use counties and metropolitan boroughs as the basic review units. Just considering the review process, it’s rather unfair on a member of the public who wants to oppose a particular proposed constituency if they have to consider the knock-on effects across a huge region, most of which they won’t know.
  4. The size of review areas needs to be a compromise between working within known units and having areas big enough to give flexibility with regard to constituency electorate and formation. The normal review area should be the top-level local authority, i.e. county, metropolitan borough or unitary authority, but this is not possible with the new 5% tolerance in electorate, since this will only work if every review area has an electorate of 800,000+. Hence the tolerance should be put up to 10%. (At the last review, this would’ve allowed constituencies of between 68,977 and 84,305.) With these limits, review areas need an electorate of at least 414,000, which would once again allow review areas to be based on counties and the larger metropolitan boroughs.
  5. The Commission needs to be expressly told to protect communities from being split by the process whenever possible. During the last Review the English and Welsh Commissions were obsessively committed to completing their duties without splitting any wards. In several review areas there were very few constituency arrangements that were possible without splitting a ward, which meant they had effectively tied their own hands, as well as removing almost any element of choice in the consultation discussions and leaving some areas with constituencies that split established communities and forced unconnected areas together. The classic case was Cheshire, but the stubbornness also detrimentally affected the outcome of the Review in Birmingham, Leeds, Portsmouth, and several other areas.
  6. Wards are useful building blocks but they should be considered less, not more, sacrosanct than town or county boundaries. Despite the ludicrous claim by the Commission that there is no agreed way of splitting wards, polling districts with known electorates exist in every area and can be used in a limited way in order to create better constituencies.
  7. Working on the data from the last Review (with the current 5% tolerance),
    Constituency electorate: minimum 72,810, maximum 80,473. Once ward size reaches 8,000 redistricting is effectively impossible: 9×8,000=72,000, 10×8,000=80,000 and 8×9,000=72,000, 9×9,000=81,000 and 7×10,000=70,000, 8×10,000=80,000.

    There is a way for the Commission to allow ward-splitting without opening the floodgates: allow it only in districts where it is mathematically necessary, i.e. with an average ward size of a certain amount. I calculated this amount as 102.5% of the average constituency size, divided by 10, which at the last review was 7,856.

    Most, if not all, metropolitan boroughs would qualify (Rochdale’s average is 7,867, for example), giving the Commission the necessary flexibility in those places.

    A cap can also be put on how many splits are allowed in a particular review area, and I suggest this could be: number of seats divided by two, rounded down. In Rochdale’s case this would be 1, in Leeds 3, in Birmingham 4, in Cheshire-Wirral 5.

  8. Orphan wards. The Commission’s current policy of not splitting wards has led to the proliferation of orphan wards: a single ward from a particular authority is tacked on to a constituency otherwise formed entirely from wards in a different authority. This is unfair to electors since the MP will spend most of their time interacting with the “main” authority and will be seen as that authority’s MP. Therefore the policy should aim to reduce the number of such wards.
  9. Packing/cracking. If a town has an electorate of say, 120,000, the decision must be made whether to have an inner and an outer seat or a west and an east seat. In the jargon, to pack or to crack. This makes an important difference to the way the area is represented, and often makes a difference to which parties win seats. In these cases the Commission should listen particularly to the views of local people in general, rather than to the (biased) views of local parties. And there should be careful analysis to ensure that the national balance between packing and cracking is such that there is no national bias towards a particular party.
  10. Islands and sparsely populated areas. The vote of every elector should be of equal worth. Therefore it’s unacceptable to have places like the Isle of Wight where an elector’s vote is worth less, and places like the Western Isles where an elector’s vote is worth more.
  11. In the case of the Isle of Wight, part of the island should form a constituency with part of the New Forest.
  12. In the case of the Northern and Western Isles, I suggest that each sends a “proportional member” to parliament. This would mean that the Northern Isles would send an MP with 0.5 of a vote in parliament, and the Western Isles would send an MP with 0.33 of a vote. This is the best compromise, since it reduces the over-representation without attempting to combined these islands with the distant mainland.
  13. In the case of other sparsely populated areas (generally distant from Westminster), the rules have already correctly been changed to stop their over-representation. Funds should be available for extra staff for MPs in such areas in order that electors get the same level of service that is available to voters in more compact constituencies.
  14. The electoral register. Boundary reviews rely on correct electoral registers. Most (or all?) electoral registers have not been correct for many years. From my own experience of canvassing for Birmingham City Council I know how hard it is for local authorities to get everyone onto the register. If parliament is serious about accuracy in its parliamentary boundary reviewing, it needs to allocate more resources into getting everyone onto the register, especially as registration varies so widely between areas according to such factors as income and nationality. Among the poor practice that comes to mind from my researches is the extremely inaccurate register that Preston had a few years ago (I seem to remember that almost 20% of voters were missing), and the unavailability of any evidence for Leeds’s ward electorate data at the last Review. These issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
  15. Mapping. The Commission’s mapping was quite good at the last review, but pdf’s are unwieldy, and it was shameful that it was left up to third parties to come up with interactive mapping. If the Commission is serious in wanting members of the public to submit counter-proposals it needs to provide an online mapping tool to help them do this.
  16. The Commission should promote co-operation over confrontation. Why not invite proposals right at the outset and incorporate those ideas into its own initial proposals, rather than coming up with its own, often bizarre, ideas without consultation and then getting all precious about them when they’re criticised?
  17. The Review hearing system is still terribly biased in favour of political parties. They use their resources to produce comprehensive counter-proposals that appear to take up at least half of the process, even though they only provide about 10% of the counter-proposals by number. Although some local parties are quite good at representing local views, my main conclusion from sitting through hearings at the last and the previous Review is that, by and large, parties’ proposals are mainly directed at keeping their MPs (and gaining new ones).
  18. Make-up of Commission. At the last review the Commission was made up of two lawyers and a council manager, only one of whom appeared to be an expert in electoral law, and none of whom was a geographer or a statistician. This meant it was difficult to have faith that they knew what they were doing. The Commission should be increased in size to ensure a greater breadth of expertise.

PART B: Recommendations for a new framework


B1. A much simpler and easier-to-manage framework for the redistribution of parliamentary constituencies is a rolling review. This would operate as follows.


B2. Initial allocation and distribution. A constituency electorate would be decided. Let’s say 80,000. (This would give several fewer MPs than now, but it’s a good idea to use a round number in order to keep future data analysis as simple as possible.) Each review area receives the number of constituencies it’s entitled to. For example, if the electorate in Area P is 420,000, it would have 5 seats (420/80=5.25); and if the electorate in Area Q is 460,000, it would have 6 seats (460/80=5.75). In every area, the distribution of seats would be decided by an independent body. This could be a national body, as now, or a local body for each area.


B3. Subsequent reviews. There would be no national or regional boundary reviews. When the electorate of a review area increases or falls such that its entitlement increases or falls, then a review takes place in that review area. But not immediately. In order to avoid frequent reviews in areas which have an entitlement of approximately half a seat (For example, if the electorate in Area R is 441,000, it would have an entitlement to just over 5 and a half seats (441/80=5.51)) the entitlement would need to have increased/decreased for 3 consecutive years before the review takes place.


B4. Within a review area, if the electorate of any constituency goes beyond acceptable limits (the limits could either be +/- 10% of the average in the review area or +/- 10% of the national average, or whatever tolerance is agreed on) for 3 consecutive years, the boundary of that seat should be reviewed. This will of course require the review of at least one neighbouring seat, and possibly several others. Furthermore, if any seat in the review area remains over 10% smaller or larger than any other seat in the same review area over a period of 10 years, there should be a review of the seat (and its neighbours). This will avoid the long-term over- or under-representation of electors.


17 October 2014


I won my bet…

In boundary changes,boundary commission,Gloucestershire,News,redistricting on October 15, 2012 by dadge

…that the English Boundary Commission would split a ward. And I guessed which one it would be – the Coombe Hill ward in Gloucestershire. In fact they’ve gone crazy and split one of the wards in Gloucester as well, even though they didn’t need to.

Unfortunately they’ve still refused to split wards in places like Birmingham, but throughout the country they have made loads of revisions to their rushed initial proposals, mostly for the better, and in quite a few places looking suspiciously like my suggestions. 😉

They’re gluttons for punishment, so they now have to endure another 8 weeks of consultation. View everything here and get writing. Oh, and copy everything to Nick Clegg, esq. of Whitehall. (Though rumours have it that his address may soon change to Brussels.)


No minutes

In boundary changes,boundary commission on May 2, 2012 by dadge Tagged:

Received the following today in reply to my FOI request:

Mr Bailey,


Thank you for your request for information which has been considered under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  Specifically, you requested ‘copies of the minutes of meetings of the Boundary Commission held in 2010 and 2011’. 

I can confirm that the Commission does hold certain records that fall within the scope of your request.

However, as detailed below, we are choosing to withhold that information as per the exemption from disclosure provided by Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. 

Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides public authorities with an exemption from the disclosure of information that is intended for publication at a future date, where it is reasonable in all the circumstances that that information should be withheld from disclosure until that date.  As the Commission has committed to publish the minutes of all meetings pertaining to the current review following its completion, these records constitute information intended for future publication and the Commission is therefore entitled to consider their exemption from disclosure.

Following consideration of the arguments both for and against the disclosure of these records, the Commission has concluded that in all circumstances of the case the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information in advance of the determined publication date of the end of the review.  That is, due to the ongoing ‘live’ nature of the current Review, the public interest in the disclosure of this information at present is outweighed by the public interest in the Commission adhering to our stated publication schedule in order to ensure consistent, comprehensive, accurate and accessible information regarding our proposals for constituencies in England.

Upon the publication of the Commission meeting minutes following conclusion of the review, we would be happy to provide you with copies in a format convenient to you.  Under the legislation to which the Commission works, we must complete the review by 1 October 2013.

If you have any queries about the content of this letter, please contact me.  Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. 

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request or wish to request an internal review, you should write to:

Deputy Secretary
Boundary Commission for England
35 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BQ

If you are not content with the outcome of your internal review, you may directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.  Generally, the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the Boundary Commission for England.  The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane