Lancashire – Boundary Review, take 2

And so it’s here, Schrödinger’s review, a wholesale review of Parliamentary boundaries which is both alive and dead, relevant and pointless, current and abandoned. Is it ongoing whilst also aware of its demise? It could be worth sitting down with a large cup of tea, or something stronger, to consider its position. First of all, a personal point. Whilst I had every faith that the Commission would take some notice of the Liberal Democrat proposals I supported (and in some cases assisted in selling at two public meetings), it appears that we failed to convince the scribes there to come round to our way of thinking. In some parts of this region the revised recommendations are – somehow – worse than the already cuckoo-bananas initial ideas. I challenge anyone to find a smaller community than “Reddish North” to be name-checked in a constituency. Anyway, to focus on the red rose county, here’s what the Commission now think should be the parliamentary make-up of Lancashire. You’ll find the maps for Lancashire over here.

Blackburn, Blackpool North and Fleetwood and Blackpool South are all unchanged from the initial proposals.

 Burnley and Accrington East and Pendle are significantly different from the initial proposals. Burnley is no longer divided somewhat arbitrarily across the town centre, which is a breakout of normality. It’s good to see Accrington isn’t cut up like a badly hacked onion either, though the justification for joining the two towns together is still fairly flimsy. There’s something of the “flat map syndrome” about it to my eyes, but at least the word “Pendle” has re-appeared on a constituency map. No explanation behind the reason to ditch it in the first place, by the way.

 The seat of Chorley has been left untouched, meaning it follow the size and shape of the council boundaries as initially proposed, as will Fylde.

 In the west of Lancashire, there’s a slightly different shape and a familiar name for Lancaster and Wyre, a modified version of the initially recommended “Lancaster”. The boundary alteration is the loss of Greyfriars, the most Fulwoodian of all Preston’s Fulwood wards, which is moved from Preston to join the towns of the A6 corridor all the way up to Lancaster city centre.

As ever, the city of Lancaster is split in half at Skerton, allowing Morecambe and Lunesdale to remain unchanged, All three parties agreed with each other on the “Fishwick issue”, brought about by the Commission initially proposing that the Preston ward of Fishwick should be attached to the rural expanse of Ribble Valley.

To balance up the numbers, Fishwick is now back with Preston, which loses Greyfriars but is otherwise exactly the same, so if these changes actually make it through the Commons (stop laughing), the constituency would be formed from almost the entire city, omitting Lea/Cottam, Greyfriars and the rural communities to the north. The modified Ribble Valley is essentially the seat fought at the 2010 election, taking in Bowland, Clitheroe, Longridge and Bamber Bridge/Walton-le-Dale. The ne thing this time round is the addition of Rishton and Great Harwood (dare I suggest amending the name to “Valleys of Ribble and Hynd”?).

South Ribble and West Lancashire have not been changed either, meaning that the former stretches from Leyland to the Southport border, crossing the River Douglas, and the latter brings together Ormskirk, Skelmersdale and all points surrounding. This leaves us with two very peculiar East Lancashire seats indeed, and these really are the Commission at their most…erm….well, peculiar. The new Rossendale and Oswaldtwistle gets a bonus point for mentioning Oswaldtwistle (let’s please have an honourable member for Oswaldtwistle.). The geography of the area is a bit tenuous, to put it nicely. I suppose it’s something that the connecting road is tarmaced at least. The shape of the seat resembles a dead rabbit, just squint.

Bolton North and Darwen joins together the northern suburbs from Bolton with the town of Darwen, logically enough, with a fair amount of hilly bits, moorland and twisty turny roads in between. To be fair, it’s an improvement on Rossendale and Darwen as currently exists (which the Commission seems to hate in its dismissal of our proposal). Wiser men than I will conclude what this means for the defending parties in each seat. It’s true that some already existing marginal seats will remain so – Blackpool, Chorley and South Ribble are already knife-edge without being altered too much. Significant additions of Tory territory into Lancaster and Preston will give Labour a bigger threat than usual, and in the east all three parties will face tough challenges in Burnley and Pendle.

Of course, all of this may be so much photocopier paper and highlighter pens. If there is no agreement between Coalition partners, never mind any other parties, there will be no boundary changes at all. Here’s to a whole host of “What might have been….”

Boundary Review – NW England – LibDem Proposals

These maps show an overview of the NW Region LibDem counter-proposals for the North West review region.

ELA – Rossendale and Ramsbottom
ELB – Darwen, Accrington and Oswaldtwistle
ELC – Burnley
WLA – Southport
WLB – West Lancashire
WLC – Mid Lancashire
WLD – Chorley and Leyland
NLA – Valleys of Ribble and Lune
NLB – Lancaster and Morecambe
NLC – Blackpool North and Fleetwood
NLD – Blackpool South
NLE – Fylde
NLF – Wyre and Preston North
NLG – Preston
NLH – Blackburn
NLJ – Pendle and Clitheroe

Boundary proposals – North West England

I have agreed to help the North West Region LibDems with their submission for this year’s great Parliamentary Boundary jamboree, so this post should be treated more a précis than any suggestion of what the Region is suggesting instead.

In very brief terms, what the Boundary Commission for England has performed is a highly impressive, highly skilled, and ultimately very controversial. In some cases, the proposals are simply not workable. They should be cohesive, coherent, and democratically valid.

However, commenting much on these proposals in this medium won’t get me very far with the bods in Region, so I present instead a quick overview of what is being proposed.

If you want to react to these changes, either do so in this blog (for I’m always up for seeing what other people suggest), or go to the Boundary Commission’s website.

City of Manchester

1) Blackley and Broughton.  Includes the Broughton and Kersal wards of Salford Council, and brings in Cheetham, Moston, Newton Heath, Crumpsall and surrounding areas.  The Charlestown ward is moved into a proposed cross-border seat called Middleton

2) Manchester Central.  Two city centres in this proposal – Manchester and Salford, four wards from each coming together into one constituency.

3)Manchester Gorton, Takes Ardwick, Gorton, Levenhsulme, Longsight, Moss Side and Rusholme

4) Manchester Withington. Loses Didsbury from the existing seat.  Includes such areas as Chorlton and Chorlton Park, Old Moat, Whalley Range and Fallowfield.

5) Middleton. Very close to an idea I had for a “Middleton, Moston and Failsworth” seat way back when, this new cross-border creation brings together communities whose common theme is close proximity to the point at which three local councils meet. Includes Chadderton, Heywood and Middleton

6) Wythenshawe. The southern quarter of Manchester, with Sale Moor ward from Trafford, also incorporates Didsbury.

City of Liverpool

1) Bootle.  Due to the size and shape of Sefton’s wards, it’s no wonder things are a bit messy round there. One Liverpool ward is attached (they call it an “orphan” in the business) to this slight return to a previous constituency.  Kirkdale joins the southern swathes of Sefton.

2) Huyton and Halewood. This is the natural successor to existing Garston and Halewood, and incorporates only two Liverpool wards.  Why it drops “Garston” is a mystery.

3) Liverpool North A boring name for a pick-n-mix seat including, amongst other bits, Kirkby Central, Croxteth, Warbrek, and the Netherton/Orrell ward from Sefton.

4) Liverpool Riverside An expanded version of the existing seat –  includes the city centre, Everton, Picton and St Michael’s

5) Liverpool Wavertree  I think this is unchanged – includes Allerton, Hunts Cross,  Cressington, Woolton and Wavertree itself.

6) Liverpool West Derby Has been expanded and includes, amongst others,  Anfield, Knotty Ash, Tuebrook/Stoneycroft, Yew tree and Stockbridge from Knowsley.

City of Salford

1) Blackley and Broughton. As above

2) Leigh. In what is a badly drawn and incorrectly named seat (this is me trying not to judge or suggest alternatives), the outskirts of Leigh are attached to Irlam, Walkden and Little Hulton.  So not quite “Leigh” really, more “Salford East and Tyldesley”.

3) Manchester Central. As above

4) Swinton Or perhaps “Eccles and something, something”.  This is the left-over bits of Salford – Barton, Eccles, Pendlebury, Winton, Swinton, and Worsley.

Borough of Wigan

1) Leigh. As above

2) Makerfield Altered a bit – includes Ashton, Bryn, Lowton (both East and West), Winstanley and perennially mispronounced pub-quiz favourite Worsley Mesnes. Clue – it’s not “mes-nes”

3) Westhoughton The border-line fringes of both Wigan and Bolton combine in this one – includes Hindley and Leigh West, the latter being, pretty much, the town of Leigh.

4) Wigan. No change – the town itself plus Standish, Pemberton, Ince, Shevington and the ward name which looks like a mis-print “Aspull New Springs Whelley”.  No commas.

Borough of Bolton

1) Bolton North. Incorporates Astley Bridge, Heaton, one half of Horwich, Tonge with the Haulgh, and Crompton.

2) Bolton South which brings together Kearsley, Farnworth, a trio of Levers and Harper Green.

3) Bury North is over 90% Bury, and brings in Bradshaw ward from Bolton

4) Weshoughton as above

Borough of St Helens

1)  St Helens North 
2) St Helens South and Whiston   Neither of which change at all

Borough of Trafford

1) Altrincham and Sale.  The existing seat extended a bit further.

2) Stretford and Urmston.  Not much change here either –  Davyhulme, Stretford, Urmston, Clifford and Ashton-upon-Mersey all incorporated.

3) Wythenshawe  As above.

Borough of Oldham

1) Ashton-under-Lyne Takes the three Ashton wards and combines with Failsworth, Hollinwood and one half of Chadderton.  Name change needed perhaps?

2) Middleton. As above

3) Oldham and Saddleworth An expanded version of the existing Oldham East

4) Rochdale South No, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s Crompton, Royton’s northern ward and Shaw attached to Castleton, Kingsway and Deeplish amongst others.

Borough of Rochdale

1) Middleton As above

2) Rochdale North and Rawtenstall  A very ye-olde Lancashire seat this one, taking the town centre of Rochdale and all parts around and attaching it to the southern cotton and factory villages of Rossendale.

3) Rochdale South As above

Borough of Stockport

1) Cheadle  Combines, amongst others, Bramhall, Cheadle, Davenport and Heald Green

2) Denton Gives one ward – Bredbury and Woodley – to a cross-border seat with the Denton and Droylsden parts of Tameside

3) Hazel Grove and Poynton. Attaches Hazel Grove and Marple with Poynton from over the border in Cheshire

4) Stockport  The town itself, also including both Heatons and Reddish. I don’t mind saying at this point that I had proposed “Didsbury and The Heatons” but this was swiftly never spoken of again

Borough of Bury

1) Bury North takes Bradshaw from Bolton
2) Bury South doesn’t appear changed at all

Borough of Tameside

1) Ashton-under-Lyne As above

2) Denton As above

3) Stalybridge and Hyde. The existing seat, plus Dukinfield

Borough of Knowsley

1) Huyton and Halewood,. As above.

2) Liverpool North.  As above.

3) Liverpool West Derby. As above.

4) Maghull. One of the posher bits of Sefton (the other being Southport) attached to left over bits of Knowsley. The ward names are fairly anonymous – Park, Northwood, Whitefield – though these cover the northwest fringes of Kirkby.

5) St Helens South and Whiston.  As above.

Borough of Sefton

1) Bootle. As above

2) Liverpool North. As above.

3) Maghull. As above

4) Southport.  The existing town of Southport with approximately 2/3rd  Formby.

Lancashire –  Boroughs of Chorley, West Lancashire, and South Ribble

1) Chorley is drawn to be completely coterminous with the Borough

2) South Ribble is barely changed at all, adding Farington and Lostock Hall back into a seat they should not have been taken away from in the first place.  Also includes Tarleton, North Meols, Hesketh Bank, and Rufford from West Lancashire.

3) West Lancashire is unchanged – Ormskirk, Skelmersdale, Burscough and surrounding fields of what appears from the train to be two-thirds of the county’s entire vegetable import for the year

Lancashire – City of Preston, Boroughs of Fylde, Wyre,  Blackpool and Ribble Valley

1) Preston expands to take almost all the city wards – oddly, and somewhat free of all logic and reason, this means Lea, Cottam and Fishwick are all excluded. Would be the first time since, I think, before the Second World War that so much of the borough was included in the same constituency – only the rural parishes and Lea and Fishwick are elsewhere.

2) Fylde continues to incorporate the parish of Lea and Cottam. Otherwise the other major addition is Poulton-le-Fylde from Wyre.

3) Lancaster is very oddly named – the boundaries are essentially the same as “Lancaster and Wyre” which existed between 1997 and 2010.  Anyway, this is “Lancaster, the M6 Corridor and bits of rural Preston”, including Grimsargh, Goosnargh and Woodplumpton. I’m not making up any of those place-names.

4) Blackpool North and Fleetwood is essentially status quo ante

5) Blackpool South avoids the temptation to cross into Lytham St Annes and cause a riot, by  moving ever more suburban. Includes Squire’s Gate, Layton, Stanley, Waterloo, Bloomfield and Claremont.  I think the Tower is in this seat.

6) Ribble Valley continues to be a right old funny one – not only continuing to include Bamber Bridge, but now Fishwick, which would mean one of Preston’s main thoroughfares (not to mention some of the most socially and economically troubled parts of England) are hobbled onto one of the most expansive and rural.

Lancashire – City of Lancaster

1) Lancaster. As above

2) Morecambe and Lunesdale  A slightly bigger version of the current seat

Lancashire – Boroughs of Blackburn and Darwen, Hyndburn, and Rossendale

1) Blackburn is virtually unchanged. Includes only seats within and surrounding the town itself – amongst their number, Audley, Ewood, Livesey with Pleasington, Wensley Fold, Little Harwood and Roe Lee.

2) Darwen and Haslingden takes areas from three boroughs, including Oswaldtwistle and Haslingden, expanding the current Rossendale and Darwen seat into new directions,

3) Burnley South and Accrington joins together the industrial bits from both these stoic northern towns, including Cliviger, Huncoat, Hapton, Rosehill, Clayton-le-Moors, Overton and Gawthorpe.

4)Rochale North and Rawtenstall As above.

Lancashire – Boroughs of Burnley and Pendle

1) Burnley North and Nelson. Takes the borough of Pendle and slots the most immediate neighbours at the bottom. Nostalgics amongst you might think it’s a reinvention of an old seat, but it is pretty much untested territory.

2) Burnley South and Accrington. As above.

NW spending cuts

Eric Pickles has unveiled his council spending and funding cuts, as part of the Coalition’s plan to reduce the deficit within the lifetime of this (hopefully) fixed-term parliament.

(“Unveiled” sounds like a party piece or end of the pier show. What about….”released”, like “the hounds”? Or “the bees?”)

Over at the FT, it is pointed out very usefully that the important figure to look out for is tucked away in the detail;

…[T]he more important number here is the formula grant, which is the £29bn a year given by Whitehall to local government. It is this number which is falling substantially – by 27 per cent – over the next four years as a result of the spending review.

Using a quick combination of Conditional Formatting and basic self-taught graph knowledge over on Excel (and yet, can I figure out how to do HTML tables? Can I jappery), here’s how the “Formula Grant” reductions break down for councils in my area of first interest, namely and naturally, Lancashire:

*Burnley – 13.8% [to £9.1m)
*Chorley – 14.8% [to £6.7m)
*Fylde – 15.8% [to £4.3m]
*Hyndburn – 13.8% [to £7.8m]
*Lancaster – 13.8% [to £13.0m]
*Pendle – 13.8% [to £8.8m]
*Preston – 14.7% [to £11.6m]
*Ribble Valley – 14.8% [to £3.2m]
*Rossendale – 15.8% [to £4.6m]
*South Ribble – 16.8% [to £5.4m]
*West Lancashire – 14.8% [to £7.4m]
*Wyre – 14.8% [to £7.6m]

*Lancashire Fire Service – 4.2% [to £31.3m]
*Lancashire County Council – 12.2% [to £333.8m]

In raw figures, the Council cuts total is £15.3m

Here are selected figures from elsewhere across the NW;

*Wigan – 11.2% [to £134.8m]
*Salford – 11.0% [to £135.4m]
*Manchester – 10.9% [to £354.1m]
*Knowsley – 11.3% [to £118.3m]

*Cheshire West & Chester – 13.3% [to £96.6m]
*Cumbria County Council – 10.3% [to £158.4]

Nationally, the largest real figure for cuts is £78.4m, from Birmingham CC, followed by the £46.3m suffered by Lancashire CC.

The smallest real figure cuts is £0.4m, seen by Purbeck, West Somerset, and Christchurch councils.

Lancashire Under Review

To much (ignorant and misunderstood) cries of “fix!” and “gerrymander!” and “How dare you launch so many constitutional reforms in one go, it makes us look bad!”, the Labour Party are opposing the plan to reduce the number of Members of Parliament to 600, from 650.

As part of the review, parliamentary seats have to be redrawn, one of my favourite activities, although the new legislation puts a lot of strain on me and the many “boundary anoraks” who have been trying out get things sorted in preparation. I point you to a couple of threads at VoteUK (“Equal Voting Size” and “AV Referendum set to be announced“), as well as this thread on USElectionAtlas (“Let the great boundary rejig commence“. These show just how difficult and drawn out the process may turn out to be. I am personally very set against splitting electoral wards between seats, something which may need to happen to make the numbers add up.

My proposals take a look at my home county of Lancashire. The numbers are quite clear; the county cannot lose a seat without being paired with a neighbouring county. I have added up and divided and subtracted as much as possible, for the County to go from 16 to 15 MPs, it must use wards from somewhere beyond Lancashire. To this end, I chose Greater Manchester. It allows for some flexibility, and avoids the problem of creating major knock-on effects elsewhere (as using Cumbria would, for example).

These are my proposed seats for Lancashire, so far. I now will move on to Greater Manchester. Some of these creations have been up and down and switched and changed, but ultimately these seem to be the best I can do with my knowledge of local geography, community links, and democratic validity. Labour supporters who oppose the reduction in MP numbers cry foul over the changes, without any understanding of the manner in which the changes take place. I did not set out with a plan to create constituencies which were anti-Labour, or pro-Tory, or likely-LibDem. It would be fruitless of me to try.

Anyway, here be what I have created so far…Lancashire down from 16 to 15…

1) Blackburn and Rishton. Takes the town of Blackburn and adds half of Hyndburn next door. This seat effectively merges the two existing seats together, although the extreme west of Blackburn, and east of Hyndburn, are moved elsewhere.

2) Blackpool North and Fleetwood. Not quite the pre-2010 seat, but close enough. Takes the eastern suburbs of Blackpool, so in essence the town is divided east/west rather than strictly north/south. This creation maintains the current divide of Thorton from Cleveleys, which wasn’t ideal but no alternative exists which doesn’t isolate Fleetwood from the rest of the county (no jokes about this already being the case, please….)

3) Blackpool South. Almost called “Squire’s Gate and The Golden Mile” for a bit of variety, this is the existing South with a “tail” extending along almost the whole coastal touristy bit.

4) Burnley and Accrington. Almost all the existing Burnley seat with the eastern bits of Hyndburn. I could not keep Burnley as a united authority because Pendle is undersized, but this I think neatly brings two near neighbours together in a credible combination.

5) Chorley and Wrightington. This caused me all sorts of headaches. Chorley is just the right size for a constituency, but no near neighbours are, so I had to add bits of Chorley to South Ribble to make up the numbers there. This seat takes Chorley into the south-west, with Parbold, Appleby Bridge, Lathom and Wrightington all joining in. I notice from Google Earth and Street View that there seems to be good road links between them all, so can’t see anything too unusual here. My first thought was “Chorley and Horwich”, but that would have been far too messy.

6) Darwen, Egerton and Pleasington. I know the name is a bit clumsy, but with the existing “Rossendale and Darwen” not having any actual direct road links between those two towns, something had to be done. I think this is a decent replacement, Darwen is connected to the parts of the authority it left Lancashire for, the northern bits of Bolton look north as much as they do south, and it replaces a constituency which had little democratic validity.

7) Fylde. The entire borough of Fylde coupled with the town of Poulton-le-Fylde. The seat is no longer coupled with Preston at all. This caused me a lot of headaches, as originally I envisaged Fylde being paired with Garstand and points east.

8) Lancaster and Morecambe. Exactly what it says on the tin. The city of Lancaster, and the towns of Morecambe and Heysham.

9) Pendle and Burnley North. With Pendle stuck in the top right corner of East Lancashire, it’s not easy to create a credible seat without splitting something into pieces. I have not been to silly here, I don’t think, moving Danehouse, Queensgate and Lanehead wards into Pendle.

10) Preston. The existing seat of Preston, minus Ingol ward, plus the ‘commute to work’ bits from over the Ribble. This is a slight return to the pre-2010 seat, although I have added Coupe Green and Gregson Lane as well, because it’s awkward positioning made adding to Chorley or Ribble Valley difficult without causing me headaches elsewhere. I did toy with calling this “Preston, Bamber Bridge and Samlesbury” but given the 1997-2010 seat was effectively this without a name change I don’t think one is needed here.

11) Rossendale and Ramsbottom. The whole of Rossendale borough is over 20,000 voters too small, so something had to be added. I tried north, I tried east where everything goes moorland and mountainy, I considered Darwen despite my misgivings. But this seems to be the best of a bad bunch. Takes three chunks out of Bury, going as far south as Tottington, but I don’t think a good MP will have any problem representing a seat of this size and shape.

12) South Ribble. No longer taking in any of the Lancashire Marsh Towns, this South Ribble includes the town of Euxton from Chorley. You only have to talk to people in my office for an hour or so to discover just how Euxton is considered a natual extension to Leyland, so a seat like this makes sense. The advantage of the larger constituency size plan is the reversal of the stupid decision to take Lostock Hall and Tardy Gate into Ribble Valley.

13) Valleys of Ribble and Lune. I know, it’s a great name, ain’t it? The whole of the Ribble Valley borough coupled with the rural bits from Lancaster, looping around to include Carnforth and Silverdale and other bits people assume are Cumbrian. This seat works because it keeps a lot of rural Lancashire together.

14) West Lancashire. The borough of West Lancs is too large, so bits have to be cut away. I think taking the southern bits into Chorley make sense, and anyway I haven’t considered adding Merseyside which would have opened the door to “Southport and Ormskirk” or some such mega creations. I think keeping a borough together as best as possible is preferable.

15) Wyre and Preston North. Originally ditched from the start, I could not fathom out an alternative which made sense. At one point I had “Fylde and Rural Preston”, but this painted me into a Garstang shaped corner. My WaPN is far larger than the current seat and of course does not include Poulton-le-Fylde.

Police reform means democratic accountability…

Summer, 2006. In Lancaster, local Liberal Democrats are helping collect signatures for a petition against Home Office plans to merge police forces in a drive to improve services and drive down costs. Some wag has printed posters warning against the safety dangers of taking “CaLPol”, the unfortunate potential acronym for the new Cumbria & Lancashire police force.

A chubby young man with dreadlocks the colour of damp cobbles takes me to task about this latest LibDem rally. “You’re the only party I could vote for if I felt like it, and you’re sticking up for the police!” he charges. Turns out to be an anarchist, but clearly a wobbly one. Like a member of the Church of England, say, principled while not committed to anything.

Four years later and those plans, long since abandoned along with the succession of Home Secretaries, appear to be back on track. With the Conservatives citing their preferred option for Directly Elected Commissioners – something I support – there seems to be a pressing enthusiasm for cutting the numbers of Constabularies in the name of cost cutting and assisting in major investigations involving serious organised crime and terrorism. “Consolidation”, of course, always means job losses and a growing distance between provider of a service and its customers. The threat of “CaLPol” returning is ever closer; I cannot say the idea of a “super force” stretching from Carlisle to Skelmersdale makes me feel safer or confident of low-level crime will be responded to any quicker than it is today.

My preference for directly elected commissioners is based on being attracted to the idea of accountability at the very top of all police forces. This is not about introducing a layer of party politicians at the top of the local constabulary, indeed nobody has actually suggested the elections take place on party lines. Across the country there are very highly successful examples of police and communities working together to suggest aims and judge police on their performances; I have seen very popular “Police and Communities Together” meetings in church halls and schools across Preston, where the only thing missing in my opinion is an independent figure at the top of the system able to judge the priorities and how they have been met.

There would be a worsening in performance if “super forces” across swathes of England and Wales were merged in the name of cost-cutting. I am, therefore, positioned on the other side of Sir Hugh Orde, who suggests mergers could be acceptable while commissioners would not.

Budget cuts and savings are required across the Home Office, who seem to zone into the “easier” targets whenever cost cuttings are mentioned. The dreadlocked man in Lancaster who disliked my party’s support for the police in general may prefer us now Chris Huhne has spoken out against the Commissioners plan…but if faced with me again would have to jab his finger one more time.