Amendments to proposed electoral boundary changes

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RECENT correspondence in the News Guardian has, quite rightly, expressed astonishment at the Boundary Commission’s initial proposals for the Tynemouth and Wallsend areas.

The more reasoned article from Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell (News Guardian, September 29) pointed out that it is only common sense that for us to have a fair democratic system, where everybody has an equal vote, the size of parliamentary constituency populations must be broadly the same.

The current situation is patently unjust and untenable.

The task to draw up new constituencies that have voter populations in the range 72,810 to 80,473 is obviously complicated, and is made even more difficult by the requirement that the new constituencies must be made up from the existing council electoral wards – that is constituencies cannot cut across ward boundaries.

However, the commission’s initial proposals can be improved by some obvious and straightforward amendments:

1. The inclusion of Tynemouth ward in a new Newcastle East constituency is preposterous as Tynemouth has long established community, environmental, economic and transport links with the other coastal wards.

Exchanging the Tynemouth ward for the Battle Hill ward in Wallsend in the proposed new Whitley Bay constituency is an obvious improvement.

2. The inclusion of the Killingworth ward in the proposed Whitley Bay constituency is also clearly nonsense as Killingworth has no links with the coastal wards. Killingworth has transport and economic links with Newcastle and it is therefore should be included in the proposed Newcastle Central constituency.

This transfer of Killingworth ward into the Newcastle Central constituency would also enable the counter balancing transfer of the Northumberland ward in Wallsend from Newcastle Central into the proposed Newcastle East constituency.

This would mean that all wards covering the Wallsend area would be in the one new constituency – which should be more appropriately re-named the Newcastle upon Tyne East and Wallsend constituency, so as to retain the historic name of Wallsend.

3. The transfer of Killingworth ward into the Newcastle Central constituency would in turn also enable the transfer of the Preston ward from Newcastle East into the new Whitley Bay constituency.

Preston Village has long established community and other links with Tynemouth and the coastal wards.

This should be more appropriately named Tynemouth and Whitley Bay, so as to retain the historic name of Tynemouth.

The above amendments to the commission’s initial proposals would result in both the new Newcastle Central and the Newcastle East and Wallsend having electoral populations that lie within the required range.

However, the exchange of Killingworth and Battle Hill for Tynemouth and Preston would mean that the electoral population of a new Tynemouth and Whitley Bay constituency would be some 400 voters less than the required minimum size.

This shortfall should be simply resolved by the transfer of the Hartley ward (population 4,043) from the proposed new constituency of Blyth and Ashington into the suggested new Tynemouth and Whitley Bay constituency.

Hartley used to be within the former Tynemouth constituency, is also a coastal ward, and its inclusion, together with the ward of Holywell as proposed by the Boundary Commission, would be obviously sensible.

I do not claim that these proposed amendments provide a perfect solution – but the declining populations north of the Tyne mean that ‘No change’ is not an option.

I do, however, strongly contend that these amendments are a significant and important improvement for those of us living at the coast or in the Wallsend area.

I would hope that the benefits of retaining the council wards covering the Wallsend area in a single parliamentary constituency – so that they may be represented by the same MP – and retaining the Tynemouth and Preston wards within a single coastal constituency are so self-evident that there is cross-party support for this from our local MPs and councillors.

I also strongly urge all those people who consider these suggested amendments to the commission’s initial proposals would be an improvement, submit their views to the commission at 35 Great Smith Street London, SW1P 3BQ, or e-mail northeast@bcommengland.x.gsi.gov.uk

ALAN FURNESS

Whitley Bay