WALTER CRONXITE reports on how the local boundary Commissioners have had a change of heart over ward changes ahead of next year’s Town Hall elections
Next May’s local elections, with 70 Town Hall seats to be contested, will be determined across 28 electoral wards, up from the present 24, following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.
Every borough ward has redrawn boundaries under the review, and will see an election for 15 three-councillor wards, 12 wards to be served by two councillors and a single one-councillor ward.
As the Commission released the distilled findings from a second round of public consultation, there was a degree of relief among senior members of the Labour group which controls the Town Hall.
Having invited the review, to seek a better balance between the numbers of residents represented by each Croydon councillor, the Tony Newman-led Labour group at Croydon Town Hall was horrified when the Commissioners’ first draft, published earlier this year, had appeared to reflect too closely a set of recommendations from the local Conservative Party – almost a boundary wish-list.
This latest version, which the Commission insists is the “final” draft of the boundaries, has removed several anomalies, particularly around the current Addiscombe and Ashburton wards.
“If we’d done what the Commissioners advised us in the first place, and submitted a properly researched set of papers, we could have avoided a lot of the dispute of their first draft,” one Town Hall source told Inside Croydon, in a thinly veiled criticism of Paul Scott, the Labour councillor who had drafted their much-criticised first-round boundary proposals.
Scott, part of Tony Newman’s Gang of Four clique which controls Croydon’s Labour councillors’ group, had ignored many colleagues’ offers of help and advice over the boundary review work.
He’d appeared to have spent a disproportionate amount of effort on redrawing the boundaries between two Labour wards – Thornton Heath and Bensham Manor – apparently for some notion of election advantage for Alison Butler, his wife and a councillor in Bensham Manor ward. The Commission appears to have ignored most of those proposals.
For their part, Croydon Tories, having drooled over the initial boundaries draft which appeared to fulfil their every wish in a Croydon carve-up, now face wards which largely reflect natural boundaries and communities, and which could – based on last month’s General Election results – deliver another four-year-term Labour council next May.
And the Commission appears quite determined that the result of its deliberations will be brought into action, as their press release accompanying the redrawn map refers to its “final” decision more than once.
“We believe these recommendations deliver electoral fairness for voters as well as reflecting community ties throughout Croydon,” said Professor Colin Mellors, the chair of the Commission.
The Commission’s press release explains some of its changes to its previous draft.
“In the Addiscombe area, the Commission had previously proposed an Addiscombe West and Park Hill ward alongside an Addiscombe East ward. Both wards would have been represented by three councillors. However, local feedback suggested that the wards did not accurately reflect local community ties. The Commission has listened to the evidence and now proposes an Addiscombe East ward to be represented by two councillors. Alongside it is an Addiscombe West ward, to be represented by three councillors.
“In addition, the Commission proposes a Park Hill and Whitgift ward to be represented by one councillor. The Commission believes the pattern of wards reflects local feedback and the shape of community identities in this part of Croydon.
“In the west of the borough, the Commission has also moved away from its proposal for a Bensham Manor East, Bensham Manor West and West Thornton ward. All of the wards would have been represented by two councillors. During consultation, the Commission received persuasive evidence that the current pattern of wards was a better reflection of community ties. The Commission has therefore moved away from its draft proposals here in favour of two three-councillor wards called West Thornton and Bensham Manor.
“The Commission also received persuasive evidence on its proposed South Croydon ward and has made changes to it. For example, the final recommendations propose that the Essenden Road area should be part of the South Croydon ward rather than Sanderstead ward. In addition, the Commission heard that the Pampisford Road area shared closer community interests with the South Croydon ward than with Waddon ward. The Commission has made both changes as part of its final recommendations.
“In central Croydon, the Commission heard that its proposed Central ward should be called Fairfield ward. The Commission has made this change as part of the final proposals.”
The electoral review of borough ward boundaries, which are now likely to be in place for the next 20 years, was a separate undertaking from the review of parliamentary constituency boundaries which is being carried out by a separate body (Boundary Commission for England) under different rules and legislation.
Full details of the final local ward recommendations are available on the Commission’s website at www.lgbce.org.uk.
The Commission seemed to dismiss the possibility of any challenge to its recommendations, saying, “The proposed new arrangements must now be implemented by Parliament. A draft Order – the legal document which brings into force the recommendations – will be laid in Parliament in the coming months. The draft Order provides for the new electoral arrangements to come into force at the council elections in 2018.”
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