There’s been a lot of fuss among some East Cambridgeshire district councillors tonight about the Boundary Commission proposal to move Littleport into a new parliamentary seat with parts of Norfolk.
But the problem was created by their own Government. And their rather desperate alternative ‘solution’ just dumps the boundary problem somewhere else.
So what’s the story?
The Government has asked the Boundary Commission to propose new boundaries for parliamentary elections, and has set the Commission three rules to obey when it does this.
- The number of MPs must be reduced from 650 to 600; this was a Government choice.
- Each seat must have more or less the same number of voters.
- As far as possible within the first two rules, the new seats should respect community identities.
These rules imposed by the Government on the Commission make some things inevitable.
- The first rule means that the East of England must lose an MP.
- The second rule means that because not all constituencies can be divided equally into whole seats of the right size, some seats have to cross county borders.
- The third rule means that the Commission has had to do its best to decide which areas would be in these cross-border seats.
The Commission’s conclusion was that as one seat had to span Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, the best place to do that was Littleport. Littleport connects to King’s Lynn by both road and rail, and (as I found when I needed surgery a few years ago) initial treatment at St George’s Medical Centre in Littleport meant referral to the hospital in King’s Lynn.
Understandably, it isn’t ideal. But it’s an inevitable result of the rules the Government set the Commission that there has to be a seat somewhere that includes a bit of Norfolk and a bit of Cambridgeshire.
East Cambridgeshire district councillors’ answer is to claim that they want to respect county boundaries, but in fact they simply want to move the problem somewhere else instead. Their proposal is to dump it on the residents of Roman Bank, to the north west of Wisbech. As the briefest glance at a map will show, this makes no sense at all. The only reason to suggest putting Roman Bank in a parliamentary seat with Norfolk is not to solve the problem, but to just fly-tip it onto your neighbour’s lawn.
And that’s neither logical nor neighbourly.
Of course the whole thing is likely to be a monumental waste of time anyway. Given the current state of our government, it’s highly unlikely that the majority of MPs will vote to abolish 50 of their own seats. But what is a lot more likely is that there will be yet another General Election next summer or autumn. And that would still be on the present boundaries. Which would mean that the Boundary Commission would have to start all over again.
They must be really looking forward to that.