Gloucester Parliamentary Boundary problems – who got us here in the first place?

Published On November 2, 2011 » 3294 Views» Gloucester, Politics
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The issue of the Parliamentary Boundaries is becoming very emotive, especially in Gloucester where it is suggested we lose the Westgate ward to the forest of Dean.  How ironic that when it came to voting this change through and its terms and conditions, the Gloucester MP was more than happy, but now he is desperate to make people believe that it has nothing to do with him and he is very against it.  Ironically he has just put a counter proposal forward which doesn’t really fit with the remit he voted for in the first place.

The Boundary Commission were told to look at reducing the number of MPs and to balance the elector numbers with minimal change and fuss.  To keep costs down they were asked to not split wards unless absolutely necessary and this is why we have the suggestion of moving a single ward, Westgate, to the Forest of Dean to make a simple change.  To be fair to the Commission, they have done their job exceptionally well, within the bounds that Mr Graham voted for. 

However, this is where it falls down.  Because they were told to concentrate on the numbers by the Tories, they did not give other factors such as geolocation as much, if any, weight in their decision.  While it may not play nice with the numbers, Westgate holds most of the “Crown Jewels” of the city and should not be moved.  If the Tories had set the remit properly to begin with, we would not have this silly situation.  However it is also a bit rich for the MP to be organising campaigns against the change when he voted for it in the first place.  It is also even more rich that in his submission he suggests splitting the Westgate ward, a move that he told the Boundary Commission they should not do. 

Ironically, he is getting no support from his neighbouring MPs either, they are keen that his desperate manoeuvres don’t mess up their wards.  A cynic would say that this is all about Mr Graham not having to move his office, especially when it took him so long to get it established in the first place.  But I’m not a cynic.

 No doubt the Lib Dems will also put forward their suggestion, and if their County Boundary efforts were anything to go by, they won’t be able to agree and there will be a couple of submissions.  I wonder what crazy schemes they will come up with, which of course will have nothing to do with where their voter base is. 

There is a mass protest this Friday about the move, starting at the Cross in Gloucester at 12.30h.  If you go, don’t forget  to point out that it is because of the Tories that we are in the position we are in!

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13 Responses to Gloucester Parliamentary Boundary problems – who got us here in the first place?

  1. Joe K says:

    This only begs the question, though, of what the ‘proper remit’ is? If Graham and the others had told the Boundaries Commission to do whatever it had to, would anyone have been much happier?

    It was roundabout 2005, as I recall, that the ward boundaries in Gloucester were redrawn, and though there have been recriminations, few people really think that a change of councillor has made any substantial difference to their lives.

    Actually, I went away to check that date, and I’ve just discovered that ‘After many meetings with groups across Gloucestershire discussing and examining the Boundary Commission recommendations for Gloucestershire’, the ‘Gloucestershire County Labour Party and Gloucestershire County Council Labour groups’ have recommended that the St Paul’s area be moved to Barton & Tredworth, in ‘exchange’ for an area just to the south of B&T (Steve McHale, 25 July, 2011). Guess who wasn’t consulted? Mind you, our officers missed the last two partnership officers’ meetings, if not three.

  2. Joe K says:

    And now Pam Tracey has been ‘gagged’ for her, to be honest rather silly, comments about the Forest. Don’t you find that people are rather oversensitive these days? I’m feeling the pinch myself. I asked the leader of our health and wellbeing action group who was ‘in charge of advertising’ if he wasn’t, and the local acting sergeant why she didn’t mention a youth disco to us so that we could help promote it. These questions have both viewed as abusive, apparently…

  3. Joe K says:

    ‘Been’ viewed, that is…

  4. Barry says:

    Hi Joe,

    The issue it that we are not talking councillors, but parliamentary representatives. if this type of change had happened earlier then the MP would not have been able to push hard for the regeneration work that we have had (for example).

    The point about the remit is that they were quite specific that the basic building block to use is the Ward, and not to even consider making new wards at all. Richard Graham’s changes has major (and costly)impacts, not only at this level, but changes that will be needed at all levels of government, requiring major work to rebalance the wards for county and city. As per usual, he hasn’t really thought it through, and this is further highlighted by the fact that no other county mp or Tory group support him.

  5. Joe K says:

    But we are talking about the possibility/risk of splitting council wards, Barry, which could happen anyway, in the circumstances. The reason I discovered all the stuff mentioned above, far from local councillors or council employees taking the trouble to inform residents, is that I was looking for the date of the last boundary revision. It turns out to have been 2001. I’ve now found the literature, by the fairly simple expedient of Googling ‘Gloucester boundary changes 2001’. It’s literally illustrative, to compare the map before the changes, Map 1, to the final recomendations, Map 2.

    But the kicker is this. Because of the way the words were shoved around in 2001, I thought I might be able to determine that the ‘crown jewels’ didn’t used to be in Westgate Ward, that they might have been in the old Eastgate Ward, and that if the boundary commission hadn’t changed things around, Westage could have been moved without the Cathedral, etc., being involved. I was wrong to think that. Westgate didn’t change all that much. What was interesting, though, was paragraph 58 of the Draft recommendations on the future electoral arrangements for the City of Gloucester, which dismissed a proposal by the Liberal Democrats for Westgate to be divided into two wards, Seven Ward and Cathedral Ward: ‘However, given the high levels of electoral imbalance in its proposed Cathedral and Severn wards by 2005 we are proposing that these two wards be combined to form a revised two-member Westgate ward.’ Maybe the commission was right, but if they’d followed the suggestion, it would be ‘Severn Ward’ which would be going to the Forest now.

    That’s a fairly inconsequential point, though. The ultimate kicker is that people are making such a big deal about not ‘splitting wards’, when, once again, they are currently in the process of changing ward boundaries again. Not that many people will know this if they are relying on TiG to tell them, but if both sets of boundaries are up for revision at the same time, how hard would it be to work something out? The GCLP have already demonstrated that the commission aren’t especially bothered about natural boundaries unless someone points out potential problems, so they could easily shift the cathedral into Barton & Tredworth (!), or Kingsholm & Wotton.

    It’s an omelette, anyway you slice it, but that doesn’t mean piling on more ketchup will make it any more appealing…

  6. Joe K says:

    The answer I tried to post didn’t appear, Barry, perhaps because I used to much html coding to pretty it up. I’ve posted it as a comment to my own blog entry on the boundaries issue instead, which worked fine…

    http://trollhunterx.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/352/#comments

    Just by the by, this reCAPCHA thing is a pain.

  7. Barry says:

    Taken from Joe K’s Blog – read the whole post here

    The reason I discovered all the stuff I mentioned above, far from local councillors or council employees taking the trouble to inform residents, is that I was looking for the date of the last boundary revision. It turns out to have been 2001. I’ve now found the literature, by the fairly simple expedient of Googling ‘Gloucester boundary changes 2001′. It’s literally illustrative, to compare the map before the changes, Map 1, to the final recomendations, Map 2.

    But the kicker is this. Because of the way the words were shoved around in 2001, I thought I might be able to determine that the ‘crown jewels’ didn’t used to be in Westgate Ward, that they might have been in the old Eastgate Ward, and that if the boundary commission hadn’t changed things around, Westage could have been moved without the Cathedral, etc., being involved. I was wrong to think that. Westgate didn’t change all that much. What was interesting, though, was paragraph 58 of the Draft recommendations on the future electoral arrangements for the City of Gloucester, which dismissed a proposal by the Liberal Democrats for Westgate to be divided into two wards, Seven Ward and Cathedral Ward: ‘However, given the high levels of electoral imbalance in its proposed Cathedral and Severn wards by 2005 we are proposing that these two wards be combined to form a revised two-member Westgate ward.’ Maybe the commission was right, but if they’d followed the suggestion, it would be ‘Severn Ward’ which would be going to the Forest now.

    That’s a fairly inconsequential point, though. The ultimate kicker is that people are making such a big deal about not ‘splitting wards’, when, as mentioned above, they are currently in the process of changing ward boundaries again. Not that many people will know this, if they are relying on TiG to tell them, but if both sets of boundaries are up for revision at the same time, how hard would it be to work something out? The GCLP have already demonstrated that the commission aren’t bothered about natural boundaries unless someone points out potential problems, so they could easily shift the cathedral into Barton & Tredworth (!), or Kingsholm & Wotton.

    It’s an omelette, any way you slice it, but that doesn’t mean piling on more ketchup will make it any more appealing…

  8. Barry says:

    Joe, I put the recapture stuff in to try to enable comments to be posted quicker without moderation, but to stop the hideous amount of spam I get from being published.

    Which method do you think is more preferable, I guess I do check it at least a couple of times a day so it might be easier for me to just moderate? Your thoughts?

  9. Joe K says:

    That makes sense. I’m definitely even less of a fan of premod than I am of reCAPCHA, so you should keep the latter. It only bites slightly when I need to type it in just for a short line acknowledging a typo.

    I read your latest entry, and I have to say that while you know, I hope, that I can criticise Richard Graham when I think it’s merited, the level of vitriol being heaped on him is a little excessive, for two reasons. First, two words, Lewis Baston. Secondly, the boundaries changes I aver to above. Yes, it costs money to change boundaries, but the intention behind the proposed ward changes is to reduce the number of councillors, saving money. It’s happening anyway, so I don’t know why they don’t mention the fact that the boundaries are fluid at the moment, and as with The Doctor after a regeneration, the implausible becomes very doable. It’s not even that implausible. I might be wrong here, but if the ward of Longlevens, in the Tewkesbury constituency, is actually adminstered by TBC, and not GCC, I would say that is not very practical, and I would have expected the councils to leave things as they are for the sake of economy. Again, I might be wrong. As I’ve said before, though, Lewis Baston’s solution is a bit like democracy, the worst solution except for all the others. It doesn’t mean the commission’s remit was wrong, just that TiG really needs to wake up to those boundary changes, and the implications.

    • Barry says:

      Sorry Joe, I think I’m missing the point. Lewis Bastion did a review for the labour party to predict what, given the narrow remit they were given, that the boundary commission would come up with. The work that Richard Graham should have done before voting for the bill.

      With respect to the boundary review, this is only for parliament not city or county. The county review is done and finished (bar the final stamp) and the two things are separate. Therefore one does not have a bearing on the other. However the next stage is probably going to be to align the city wards to the county wards before the next general election.

      The vitriol on RG is largely of his own making, his solution Is simply ridiculous and he is just riding roughshod over the boundary commission, the views of his own party, and most importantly the residents of westgate. It is importantly to highlight that the National Conservatives don’t support his proposal, his regional party don’t support it and if the rumour mill is true, many of his local councillors don’t support it either.

  10. Joe K says:

    I guess I’m missing the point, too. At least, I had assumed from the beginning that Lewis Baston had some connection with the boundaries commission, but I see that isn’t the case. Nevertheless, I’ve always said that however ‘bonkers’ his predicted solution might be, it was the only one on the cards. As Holmes said, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Also, I’ve learned not to dismiss an idea because of who or where it originates.

    The county ward and constituency boundaries do have a bearing on each other, though, since that is the alleged problem, that Graham backed a proposal which stressed that the commission should not ‘split’ wards. And as the county review is not finished (without that final stamp), and the whole point of it is to make wards bigger to reduce the number of councillors, the rather simple solution of widening Kingsholm & Wotton’s boundary to encompass the cathedral, etc, would seem like a no-brainer to me. That, or just an acceptance that Gloucester’s geography should merit special dispensation.

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