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Boundary changes report gives more weight to Gloucestershire communities

By Ben_Falconer  |  Posted: July 02, 2014

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CONTROVERSIAL boundary changes which caused outrage in Gloucestershire could be avoided next time the Parliamentary map is re-drawn.

A major academic report published yesterday (Wednesday) warns a multi-million pound boundary review starting in 2016 could cause mass disruption again.

But Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper said the report could avoid a row similar to that over proposals made three years ago which could have seen part of Gloucester city centre including the cathedral move in to his constituency.

Those plans, drawn up as part of a £7million boundary review, were dropped but anomalies still exist - Minchinhampton in Stroud district is in the Cotswold constituency, and Longlevens in the Gloucester City Council district is represented by Tewkesbury’s MP.

Mr Harper a former political and constitutional reform minister, said: “It is essential we move to a system of more equal-sized constituencies for 2020.

“The report will be a set-text for anyone who wants to do that and secure a majority for it in the House of Commons.

“It is an important milestone on the road to equal votes with equal value.”

Liberal Democrat Political and Constitutional Reform spokesman Lord Tyler, who lives in Sheepscombe near Stroud, said: “The risk is that without a change in the law after 2015, the Boundary Commissions could spend nearly £7m on another review with totally unsatisfactory results. We must avoid a mass constituency carve-up.”

Gloucester City Council leader Paul James, whose Longlevens ward is in Tewkesbury constituency, said residents there look towards Gloucester.

"I can understand the need to achieve electoral parity but it should not be at the expense of a feeling of community identity," he said.

In 2011 Parliament agreed new rules for creating parliamentary constituencies to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment to 'ensure every vote will have equal value'. In 2013, however, implementation of these new rules was delayed until after the 2015 General Election. The Boundary Commissions are due to begin the multi-million pound project of radically redrawing constituency boundaries once again in 2016, unless Parliament amends the law next year.

Existing constituencies vary massively in size between different parts of the country, with some Welsh seats containing as few as 40,687 voters while the Isle of Wight constituency contains around 111,109. Yet many MPs were concerned with the results when the Boundary Commissions drew up new constituencies in 2013, all with electorates between 72,810 and 80,473. There was extensive disruption to the existing constituency map with local authority boundaries often breached, and some areas fragmented into five or six chunks as part of the redistribution.

The report, published by the McDougall Trust, examines how to end existing inequalities in the system, without the significant disruption which is likely to result if existing rules are followed again. The findings were presented to MPs and Boundary Commission officials by authors Professor Ron Johnston, Professor Charles Pattie and Dr David Rossiter. The academics also examine whether the House of Commons should number 650 or 600 MPs.

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