In terms of its representation on Cambridgeshire County Council, Queen Edith’s is to be merged with Trumpington in a double-sized ward (‘division’) with two councillors, it was confirmed today. As has been reported on in this blog previously, Cambridgeshire County Council is cutting down on the number of councillors, which means that the city’s 14 county councillors will soon be reduced to 12. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) worked throughout last year on a plan to create new divisions across the city to accommodate this change, and it has now produced a final set of recommendations. The result will be several roads added into our ward for county council representation.
But first things first: for many years, the number of city councillors (42) has been a multiple of the number of county councillors (14). This means that we can have the same divisions for voting purposes; each division (such as Queen Edith’s) elects 3 city councillors and 1 county councillor. With the reduction in the number of councillors at Cambridgeshire County Council, the two can no longer coincide, so many roads will find themselves in one division for city council representation, and in a different one for county council representation. It is possible that the city council will eventually reduce its members accordingly, but for now we’re stuck with a slightly confusing situation.
How do you solve a problem like Trumpington?
There is an additional problem, which has exercised many people over the past year. Trumpington, although presumably Cambridge’s fastest-growing area in terms of population, is still too small to warrant being a division on its own. This was overcome on the previous set of division boundaries (which continue for the city council) by the unsatisfactory arrangement of allocating Trumpington the area between the Nuffield Health Hospital on Trumpington Road, past the railway station, right up to Parker’s Piece. Clearly this is odd, to say the least. In the new arrangements, this area was always likely to be reallocated to a city centre division. So what could they do with this small but pretty outpost of the city?
The answer, in the LGBCE’s first iteration, was to give a huge chunk of Queen Edith’s to Trumpington. This included Wort’s Causeway and the surrounding roads, and was completely unacceptable to local residents. What could be done? A few people, including your humble correspondent, came up with the suggestion of ‘merging’ Queen Edith’s and Trumpington into a double-sized division with two councillors, at least while the population grows over the next few electoral cycles. The LGBCE thought the idea was a sensible one, and in its final recommendations has divided the city into 10 standard divisions, as well as our double-sized division sweeping across the whole of the south of the city.
Here’s the before and after:
You’ll see that in terms of names, the Chesterton divisions have been combined, and the Coleridge division has disappeared. But the most obvious change is the creation of our new division stretching right across the south of the city. Again, we should stress that the divisions shown in the lower map are just for our county councillors, and we’re staying as we are (for now) – see top – when it comes to the city council.
What’s changing for Queen Edith’s? Well, the roads being lost by the combined division are all the other side of the railway line, in the current Trumpington boundaries. The roads being gained all adjoin Queen Edith’s. These include:
– Hills Road around the Cherry Hinton Road junction, up to the railway bridge, and including the sixth form college;
– the Leisure Park;
– the entire western half of Cherry Hinton Road, from Hills Road to Budgens;
– Derby Road, Coniston Road, Cowper Road, Neville Road, Lichfield Road;
– St Margarets Square, Lilac Court;
…and at the eastern side:
– the remainder of Queen Edith’s Way;
– Limekiln Road; and
– Greystoke Road.
These areas will (for now) be in different divisions for county council and city council elections. It may be that the city council reorganises along the lines of the county council in time – we shall have to wait and see on that front.
Is our ‘super division’ a good thing? Well, it’s solved a problem, for sure, keeping all the connected parts of Queen Edith’s together. Many strong objections have come from local councillors and political activists, who really don’t like it. While the plan was under consideration, I asked several of them – from different parties – to explain why it’s such a bad idea, but the only responses I could understand were “larger divisions lose their identity” and “it makes it difficult to campaign”. These didn’t seem like particularly strong objections to me, especially if the alternative involves parts of one individual division arbitrarily being allocated to the wrong one next door.
In terms of identity, we don’t need to be defined by council boundaries. I’m sure the Trumpington Residents Association and the Queen Edith’s Community Forum will come to an informal agreement about where the demarcation line falls between their activities. The combined division will work for residents in that respect, even if it doesn’t for politicians. I know that the Queen Edith’s Community Forum would like to welcome the new roads above into the fold, especially as many of them already seem to naturally belong here.
On a personal note, I’ve always been very wary of having a single councillor represent me on any council. At city level, Queen Edith’s has three councillors. This is great, because if you get a poor one, there are always others. At county level, we get just one councillor, and if we don’t elect a good one, we’re stuck with them for four years. At present, Queen Edith’s has a county councillor who is widely regarded as being hard working and effective. Other divisions aren’t as lucky. In future, with two county councillors across the combined division, we have a fallback option.
I’m just disappointed the LGBCE didn’t accept my proposal for the division to be alphabetically named “Queen Edith’s & Trumpington” rather than their left-to-right “Trumpington & Queen Edith’s”…