County could lose MPs in boundary shake-up

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Plans to shake-up parliamentary constituencies across Derbyshire have been unveiled by the Boundary Commission.

The organisation is looking to cut the number of MPs from 533 to 501 in England, from 40 to 29 in Wales, from 59 to 53 in Scotland and from 18 to 17 in Northern Ireland, taking the total number from 650 down to 600.

In its draft proposals, the commission says: “The East Midlands currently has 46 constituencies. Of these constituencies, 24 have electorates within five per cent of the electoral quota.

“The electorates of 19 constituencies currently fall below the five per cent limit, while the electorates of three constituencies are above.

“Our initial proposals for the East Midlands are for 44 constituencies, a reduction of two.”

The commission says constituencies must have no fewer than 71,031 electors and no more than 78,507.

But how will the changes affect Derbyshire residents?

• The Boundary Commission is proposing extending the Bolsover constituency across the county to the north of the borough of Chesterfield with the inclusion of 12 wards from the North East Derbyshire constituency, including Dronfield. This constituency would then become Bolsover and Dronfield.

• It is also proposed that eight wards in the west and south of the existing Bolsover constituency should be included in a newly created Alfreton and Clay Cross constituency.

• In addition, the Alfreton and Clay Cross constituency would contain part of the existing North East Derbyshire constituency and seven wards from the existing Amber Valley constituency, containing the towns of Alfreton and Ripley.

• The High Peak would remain unchanged.

• The Derbyshire Dales electorate is very low so the inclusion of five wards in the east from the existing North East Derbyshire constituency is being proposed in order to meet the electorate number requirements.

• It is proposed to add the ward of Barrow Hill and New Whittington from the existing North East Derbyshire constituency into the Chesterfield constituency.

• Amber Valley and Erewash - the Boundary Commission has proposed that the constituency containing the remaining wards of the existing Amber Valley constituency be extended southwards to incorporate most of the existing Mid Derbyshire constituency, including the towns of Belper and Duffield.

A public consultation is under way into the reforms, with final proposals due in October 2018. If agreed by Parliament the new boundaries would be in place by the 2020 general election.

What do our MPs say?

• Conservative Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham’s constituency would be abolished and split into three if the proposals went ahead. She welcomed the principal that all constituencies would have broadly similar electorates and the overall numbers would go from 650 to 600, but raised concerns over the current proposals.

She said: “Although I was aware that Derbyshire was likely to lose one of its seats, the details of the plans make absolutely no sense.

“The constituency will be split across four different councils and there seems to have been a real lack of understanding about the communities themselves.”

“These proposals are nothing like the changes suggested previously, and I worry this will result in more confusion for local communities that have only just come to terms with the name Mid Derbyshire”.

Mrs Latham has pledged to continue the conversation about the proposals with senior members of the party in order to seek further clarification on the wider implications for Derbyshire.

• Labour Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins, whose constituency would increase slightly if the proposals went ahead, said while changes to the boundaries are normal, the frequency with which the changes have been proposed would damage the relationship between constituents and their MPs.

He explained that boundary reorganisation usually takes place every 15 years or so, but the Boundary Commission has proposed that they are every five years, meaning MPs would frequently have to introduce themselves to new constituents every time their boundaries where moved.

Mr Perkins commented: “If these constituencies become less and less based on any recognisable geography and more based on the lumping together of three or four towns and villages it will damage the link between MPs and their constituents.”

• Conservative Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills, whose constituency would lose some wards but expand into others, said the proposals represented a challenge.

“It looks to be a complicated solution,” he commented,.

Mr Mills explained that at the moment while some constituencies may have 100,000 constituents, others may only have 50,000, which represented an inequality.

“I think all seats should be roughly the same size,” he added.

“I think we need to look through the detail and see whether there is any option to take some of the complexity.

“I would have preferred to keep my seats as it stands and add a few bits.

“We need to work on the numbers and see if there are any ways of tweaking it.”

The proposals were going to be subject to two rounds of consultation. There will be a public hearing on the proposals at the Cathedral Quarter Hotel, in Derby, between 10am and 8pm on October 27 and between 9am and 5pm on October 28.

For further information, visit the Boundary Commission website, www.bce2018.org.uk