As the Local Government Boundary Commission for England publishes its recommendations this morning, supposedly “after months of careful deliberation”, what they have offered up is a re-drawn map of the borough which looks almost identical to the proposals put forward by the Croydon Conservatives.
Alternative ideas from Croydon Council – effectively the scheme worked up by Newman and his Gang of Four closest political colleagues – have been all but ignored.
Last year, the Commission rejected a Tory proposal for a modest trim of the number of councillors to 60.
But this time round, the Commissioners’ recommendations are so close to those of Croydon Tories, it is as if they have spent the past four months simply cutting and pasting the long (and often quite awkward-looking) proposed new ward names, such as “Addiscombe West and Park Hill” or “Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown”, straight from the Conservative map and on to the one they have published today.
The Commissioners’ proposals suggest that the Town Hall chamber should continue to be over-populated by a total of 70 councillors, as it has been since the last ward boundary review nearly 20 years ago.
But instead of having 22 wards represented by three councillors and two with two councillors, as has been the case since 1998, the revised political map of Croydon has 28 wards, split evenly between those represented by three or two councillors.
The intention is to even out the number of people within each ward – wards in the north of the borough tend to be more densely populated than those to the south – and therefore ensure that all residents are fairly represented at the Town Hall, and that councillors’ mounting workload is also more fairly distributed.
Newman and his Blairite clique of Alison Butler and Paul Scott, plus Mark Watson, had thought that by requesting this review, they might engineer a built-in electoral advantage at the next local elections, in May 2018, and further ahead, by diminishing the number of “winnable” seats for the Tories.
The Tories’ counter-proposal was fiercely critical of the council scheme, and the work done on their 77-page, detailed ward-by-ward review has been well-rewarded with the publication of the Commission’s own review today.
The process is not quite complete: the Commission has today begun an eight-week consultation, through to May 8, “open to anyone who wants to have their say on new council wards, ward boundaries and ward names across Croydon”, they say.
But it is fair to suggest that Croydon’s Tories have been given a head start by the Commission’s recommendations.
“This is a debacle for Labour in Croydon,” one Katharine Street source who has seen the proposals said tonight.
“Newman gambled that a review would give Labour an election advantage for years to come and make it difficult for Tories ever to gain control. The gambit has failed.”
In a statement issued tonight, the Boundary Commissioners said: “The Commission’s draft recommendations propose that the Croydon should have 70 councillors in the future, the same as the current arrangements. The recommendations also outline how those councillors should represent 14 three-councillor wards and 14 two-councillor wards across the borough.”
The full recommendations and detailed interactive maps are available on the Commission’s website at consultation.lgbce.org.uk and www.lgbce.org.uk. Hard copies of the Commission’s report and maps will also be available to view at council buildings.
The Commission was chaired by Professor Colin Mellors. “Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for local voters,” Mellors said. “This means that each councillor represents a similar number of people so that everyone’s vote in council elections is worth roughly the same regardless of where you live.
“We also want to ensure that our proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities across Croydon and that the pattern of wards can help the council deliver effective local government to local people.
“We will consider all the submissions we receive whoever they are from and whether your evidence applies to the whole borough or just part of it.”
The Commission says that types of questions its is asking residents in this phase of consultation are:
- Do the proposed wards reflect local communities?
- How do you think the proposals can be improved whilst maintaining electoral equality?
- Are the names of the proposed wards right?
The review of council wards is a separate undertaking from the review of parliamentary constituency boundaries which is being carried out by a separate body (the Boundary Commission for England) under different rules and legislation.
If you would like to make a submission to the Commission, please write or email
The Review Officer (Croydon)
Local Government Boundary Commission for England
14th floor, Millbank Tower
Or use the Commission’s consultation portal: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/8775
Link to the dedicated web page for the Croydon electoral review: www.lgbce.org.uk/current-reviews/greater-london/croydon
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