Fylde coast boundary change plans spark anger

Proposed constituency map for changes 2016 from the Electoral Commission.
Proposed constituency map for changes 2016 from the Electoral Commission.
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A political row has erupted over proposed changes for the next General Election which could see the Preston North and Wyre constituency vanish and Fleetwood and Blackpool North significantly changed.

The plans published by the Boundary Commission for England have provoked a political storm, with Labour claiming that they will be the big losers with fewer constituencies at the next election giving the Conservatives an unfair advantage.

It was based on voter numbers measured in December 2015, but Labour says that misses out on the extra voters registering for the recent EU referendum.

In Lancashire the number of seats fall from 16 to 14.

On the Fylde, the changes would see changes to the boundaries of the existing seats to ensure each has a voting population within the new rules of between 71,031 and 78,507.

Under the proposals, Blackpool North, currently held by Conservative MP Paul Maynard, would revert to its old boundary which formerly included Fleetwood, last used when Labour MP Joan Humble represented the population there.

It would also extend northwards to the mouth of the estuary of the River Lune and include Thornton.

Fylde, currently held by Conservative Mark Menzies, would remain mostly unchanged but its boundaries would change to include Poulton.

Labour MP Gordon Marsden’s Blackpool South would be extended northwards and southwards to also include the St Leonard’s and Kilnhouse wards around Blackpool Airport.

Conservative MP Ben Wallace’s constituency would be scrapped to be replaced by a wide ranging rural North Lancashire area instead.

This would extend from borders with Cumbria and North Yorkshire, to the estuary of the River Lune, and to the outskirts of the city of Preston. The changes are to be made to reduce the overall number of MPs nationally from 650 to 600 and saving the country an estimated £66m over five years.

A furious Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour MP Cat Smith said: “These proposals to redraw constituency boundaries are unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable as they are based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register.

“This is not what the Tories have done. By pressing ahead with proposals despite two million people having been left out of the review, the Tories have revealed the truth about their plan to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600: it is designed for their own political advantage rather than do what is in the best interests of the country.

“Suggestions that this is being done to ‘cut the cost of politics’ are a red herring. The claimed saving of £12m is dwarfed by the £34m cost of the 260 extra peers David Cameron appointed to the Lords. ”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden also criticised the plans saying the Electoral Commission had been forced to use flawed data by the Tory Government.

He said: “And with respect to the changes to the Blackpool South constituency, it is unprecedented in its history, whether as a single Blackpool constituency or as Blackpool South as it has been since 1945, for its boundary to be moved outside the town into Fylde.”

But Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said: “Equalising the size of constituencies is fair, MPs should, within a legal limit determined by Parliament, represent about the same number of people.

“This is fair to those who are MPs and those who seek help and support from MPs. We also cannot have a system where one party needs significantly fewer votes to win a seat than the other main party.

“I also believe a point that is missed in that this is now an ongoing process and boundaries will be reviewed for every general election, so people who have registered post December 2015 will be accounted for in the next review. All boundary reviews are based on data taken as a specific snapshot at a determined date. It is impossible to re-draw boundaries on shifting sands and ever changing data.”

“Looking locally, we see the abolition of the Lancaster and Fleetwood seat. The wards of Layton, Park, and Claremont will head back to Blackpool South, while I will gain the rest of Thornton including Stanah Ward. At present these are draft proposals and a 12-week public consultation will take place.

“I would urge people to look at the proposals for all the seats on the Fylde Coast to see if you think they make sense or could be made better in any way and then submit your thoughts to the commission. However, in the meantime I will continue to represent all my current constituents.”

The Boundary Commission is an independent and impartial non‑departmental public body which is responsible for reviewing Parliamentary constituency boundaries.

It was ordered to produce proposals for change using data on voters collected in December 2015 by the Conservative Government.

People can comment on the review up until December 5.

Details of how to do this and public meetings about t he review in the county can be found at www.bce2018.org.uk

Wards included in the new Blackpool North constituency would be:

Anchorsholme, Bispham, Greenlands, Ingthorpe, Norbreck, Warbreck, Bourne, Cleveleys Park, Jubilee,Marsh Mill, Mount, Park, Pharos, Pheasant’s Wood, Rossall, Stanah, Victoria and Norcross and Warren.

Blackpool South would include: Bloomfield, Brunswick, Claremont, Clifton, Hawes Side, Highfield, Layton, Marton, Park, Squires Gate, Stanley, Talbot, Tyldesley, Victoria, Waterloo, Kilnhouse and St Leonards.

Fylde would include: Ansdell, Ashton, Central Fylde, Clifton, Elswick and Little Eccleston, Fairhaven, Freckleton East , Freckleton West, Heyhouses, Kirkham North, Kirkham South, Medlar‑with‑Wesham, Newton and Treales, Park, Ribby‑with‑Wrea, Singleton and Greenhalgh, St. Johns, Staining and Weeton, Warton and Westby, Lea, Breck, Carleton, Hardhorn with High Cross and Tithebarn.

North Lancashire would include: Carnforth and Millhead Lancaster, Ellel Lancaster, Halton‑with‑Aughton Lancaster, Kellet Lancaster, Lower Lune Valley Lancaster, Silverdale Lancaster, University and Scotforth Rural Lancaster, Upper Lune Valley Lancaster , Warton Lancaster, Preston Rural East , Preston Rural North, Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley Ribble Valley, Alston and Hothersall Ribble Valley, Bowland, Newton and Slaidburn Ribble Valley, Chatburn Ribble Valley, Chipping, Derby and Thornley Ribble Valley, Dilworth Ribble Valley, Gisburn, Rimington Ribble Valley, Ribchester Ribble Valley, Waddington and West Bradford Ribble Valley, Brock with Catterall Wyre , Calder Wyre, Garstang Wyre, Great Eccleston Wyre, Hambleton and Stalmine Wyre, Pilling, Preesall Wyre and Wyresdale Wyre.