You may remember that six months ago, I wrote about the proposal to radically re-shape our Queen Edith’s county council ward, as part of a wider council reorganisation. We now have a major update to that, and a final chance to have your say.
The county council is ‘slimming down’ the number of councillors by 10%, which in turn means the city will only have 12 seats, rather than 14. So the boundaries for the county council wards are having to be re-drawn into slightly bigger ones. (As far as I know, the city council is going to remain with 42 councillors, and as 12 doesn’t go into 42, we’ll end up with different ward boundaries for the city and county council in future. Not ideal, but there we have it. Perhaps this is the opportunity for the city council to slim down too, and move to the county council’s new ward boundaries.)
The task of creating these new ward boundaries fell to The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE). It came up with the plan back in May, which I wrote about at the time, and it asked for feedback on the ideas in a public consultation exercise. After weighing up the submissions from local residents and political parties over the summer, the LGBCE has now come up with a refined set of proposals. In the rest of the county, these are not considered to be so far removed from the original plans that any further consultation is required. However, here in the city, it has largely thrown away its earlier proposals, and has opened up a radically revised plan for more feedback. This is the part we can all now play.
If you read my earlier article, you’ll know that I was appalled with the LGBCE’s original proposals. They turned Queen Edith’s into an east-west strip with no real focus, and moved important areas such as Wort’s Causeway into Trumpington. Others were equally dismayed, and it’s to the LGBCE’s credit that they’ve started again.
The feedback from local residents and political parties was extensive. If you want to wade through them, here’s a selection:
Local Residents A-I (PDF)
Local Residents J-Z (PDF)
County Councillors (PDF)
Trumpington Residents Association (PDF)
Cambridgeshire City Council (PDF)
Cambridgeshire County Council (PDF)
Cambridgeshire City Liberal Democrat Group (PDF)
Cambridgeshire Green Party Group (PDF)
Cambridgeshire County Council Labour Group (PDF)
Cambridgeshire County Council Liberal Democrat Group (PDF)
Cambridgeshire South East Conservative Association (PDF)
The biggest problem in the south of the city, which causes a knock-on effect elsewhere, has been Trumpington. This simply does not have enough people at the moment. The current unsatisfactory arrangement (for both city and county councils) has resulted in Trumpington – rather curiously – including an area right up to the railway station! In its first proposal, the LGBCE decided to change this, but its plan this time included making up Trumpington’s shortfall by giving it the Queen Edith’s southern boundary. This was just as odd.
However, Trumpington is growing fast, so one or two of us had an idea. Why not, for the next few years at least, combine Trumpington and Queen Edith’s into a double-sized ward, with twice the normal allocation of councillors, until the new developments have grown enough for Trumpington to stand on its own two feet again? This was the basis of my own proposal to the consultation, which you can see in the ‘residents J-Z’ document above.
To be honest, I didn’t think my suggestion stood a chance, as I know the local political parties would put in extensive and well-researched alternatives which would not include double-sized wards. As I understand it, political parties detest double-sized wards, because apparently it makes their campaigning job harder. So it was to my great surprise that the revised plan from the LGBCE followed my ideas rather closely! Here’s what they’ve come up with for the city:
Those of you who remember the first proposal will see that there are no longer new wards with new names (St Pauls’s, St Matthews, etc) and we now retain 12 of the 14 existing names, but with revised boundaries (Coleridge and one of the Chesterton wards have gone). And here’s a closeup of the proposed Trumpington and Queen Edith’s:
I think this is is a huge improvement, and I thoroughly support it. One or two local political party members seem unhappy, but none seem able to give me a explanation for not liking the double-sized ward other than it making their lives a bit harder from a campaigning point of view. To me, that’s not really a compelling argument. I can understand that there’s a risk of ending up with all of our councillors living a long way away, and it’s true that here in Queen Edith’s, we wouldn’t want the two Trumpington and Queen Edith’s county councillors to both live down by the M11 junction, for example. But any sane local political party would choose a candidate from each end of the ward if they could. I can also see that a double-sized ward would make the job of any independent candidates almost ridiculously hard, but we haven’t had one of those in Trumpington or Queen Edith’s, ever, more’s the pity.
Perhaps in the future, changing numbers will make it possible to separate Trumpington and Queen Edith’s again, straight down the railway line. In the meantime we can keep our identities for local events, but share councillors.
So the new plan looks good, and I shall say so. There are a few tweaks which I’d like to see still: I’d like the cul-de-sacs on both sides of the eastern half of Cherry Hinton Road to be in Trumpington and Queen Edith’s, as they’ve little to do with Cherry Hinton. However, I do think that the far east of the proposed ward (Greystoke Road, Limekiln Road and everywhere to the east of that) should remain in Cherry Hinton, and I’m sure the residents will agree.
From an electoral outcome point of view, Trumpington and Queen Edith’s have chosen Liberal Democrat councillors in 8 of the 10 elections held across the two wards in the last 5 years. In the exceptions, both 2012, Queen Edith’s went to Labour and Trumpington went to the Conservatives. Although the changed edges of the proposed wards may make things a little different, combining them would most likely reinforce the Liberal Democrat majority.
What do you think? Of course, I’d love to read your comments below. However, if you want to put your views to the LGBCE directly (and they say they’d like to hear them!), the details on how to do so, along with a whole lot more information, are at their website here.