Cllr Phil Dixon on the proposed boundary review as it affects us in Wealden.
Why are we having a boundary review?
In order to make elections fair, it is necessary to review parliamentary boundaries so that the constituencies have a more equal number of voters. Demographic changes mean that some areas are over represented and some are under represented.
What is different this time?
The Cameron government proposed reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 which will result in major changes. The size limits for constituencies are also much more rigid. They will have to have between 71,031 and 78,507 electors, a maximum range of 5% above and below the current quota. This also means more changes in future reviews to keep within the limits.
What is the timetable?
The review began in early 2016 and has already completed three stages of consultation. The Boundary Commission is due to publish final proposals in September which will go to Parliament. If passed, the new constituencies will come into force immediately.
What will change for us?
Well, everything really. The Wealden Constituency, formed in 1983, will be abolished and split between a new constituency of Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough, a new constituency of Lewes and Uckfield and an altered constituency of Bexhill and Battle. The Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough constituency will, unusually, be a cross-county constituency.
And for the Party?
Currently the Conservatives are suffering a handicap of up to 10 seats, due to the unequal boundaries and, according to some, might have won a majority at the last election if the boundaries had been fairer.
Is this final?
Very likely. The Boundary Commission have said that they will need new and compelling evidence to make any changes as a result of the last consultation.
Will it actually happen?
The big question! The Government will need the support of the DUP to pass the changes and there are some Conservatives that are not happy. However, the DUP are much more relaxed with the last set of proposals for Northern Ireland and one feels that the Government must believe that they can win or they would have abandoned the review last year and restarted the process with the existing number of MPs for completion in 2020.
UPDATE - September 2018
The four independent Boundary Commissions have now completed their work on the Parliamentary Boundary Review, and their reports have been laid before Parliament. They propose that the size of the House of Commons will be reduced from 650 seats to 600 seats, and constituencies will be more equally-sized. Parliament will vote to ratify these reports in due course. The reports can be found online at:
Conservative Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis, says: "We are particularly conscious that boundary changes can create uncertainty. The Conservative Government had a clear manifesto pledge to get on with implementing the new boundaries, both in 2015 and in 2017."