James Grundy MP: Parliamentary boundary review 'absurd'
James Grundy is the Conservative MP for Leigh.
As many readers will be aware, last week the Boundary Commission for England produced proposals for changes to Parliamentary Constituencies in England, part of a regular constitutional process to ensure that all constituencies are of roughly equal size, to ensure our votes have broadly equal weight at election time, and to prevent the creation of ‘Rotten Boroughs’ with a small number of voters.
The process itself is a sensible and noble one, but sometimes the Commission themselves come up with peculiar solutions to the problem of drawing up equally sized constituencies. So it has been this time.
It was always clear that the Leigh constituency would have to change, given that the vast amount of development we have seen in the area since the last set of boundaries went into effect in 2010 meant that the constituency was too large to remain as it was.
The problem is that the Boundary Commission has sought to draw new constituencies on the basis of council ward boundaries, rather than on the basis of natural communities.
The Boundary Commission proposes to split the Leigh West ward from Leigh and put it into the Makerfield seat, giving Leigh in exchange the Ashton ward.
This may work in terms of pure numbers, but it is absurd from a community perspective.
Ashton is a very nice place, but no one who had grown up there would consider themselves a Leyther. Equally, people living in places such as Railway Road in Leigh town centre, or Plank Lane, people who have lived in Leigh all their lives, will have reacted with some considerable consternation to the idea that they are to be put into a seat based on the southern suburbs of Wigan, to say the least!
Confusingly for local people, landmarks such as Leigh library and Leigh Town Hall would also be put into the Makerfield seat.
Splitting the town in such an arbitrary and unequal manner between the two constituencies could only be detrimental to the representation of the town, whatever the colour of the political badge that representative wears.
On the eastern end of the constituency, I also have concerns regarding the proposal to split Astley between Leigh and the Worsley constituency.
Once again, the Commission has proposed to put the Astley ward within Worsley, but the Astley ward does not contain all of Astley.
The tiny community of Gin Pit village would also be split between Leigh and Worsley. Once again, this may work on a purely numerical basis, but not from a community perspective.
There is one aspect of these proposals that I can approve of, however.
I am glad to see that the Commission proposes to include the whole of Atherton in the Leigh constituency.
Currently Atherton is split between Leigh and the Bolton West seat, and I am glad these proposals bring the town back together.
We now need the Commission to do the same for other local communities too.
The same thing happened about a decade ago, when the Boundary Commission proposed to split Leigh in a similarly contentious way in a previous boundary review.
At that time, a cross party group of politicians and community groups got together to run a campaign called ‘Keep Leigh in Leigh’, who successfully fought to persuade the Commission not to split the town of Leigh at that time.
I am pleased to announce I and a number of community representatives will again be running a campaign to ‘Keep Leigh in Leigh’, and all the signs so far are that it will have strong community backing.
Just like last time, this is a community issue, not a party political one, and I’ll be fighting alongside my community to ensure that Leigh stays together in a single constituency, as it should do.
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