News » Boundary Commission Response to proposals
|Boundary Commission Response to proposals January 19, 2015|
BOUNDARY COMMISSION PROPOSALS FOR COLCHESTER BOROUGH
COMMENTS FROM DEDHAM PARISH COUNCIL (agreed 12.01.15)
Proposals were made last year from the Boundary Commission to review the ward structure within the Borough of Colchester on account of the imbalance in councillor representation that existed as a result of the relative growth of the population in the central areas of Colchester. Whilst there was some preliminary consultation at the end of last year regarding the principles underpinning the proposals it was not until the detailed response from Colchester Borough was made to the Boundary Commission that the Commission was able to consider and recommend definitive changes within the Borough.
The Boundary Commission’s proposals for change were circulated both by Colchester Borough Council and under cover of a letter from the Chief Executive of the Boundary Commission dated 29th November 2014. The closing date for submissions is 12th January 2015. The first opportunity, however, for Dedham Parish Council to formally consider these proposals was at its meeting on l2th January 2015 and given these circumstances our clerk sought agreement from the Boundary Commission to submit our comments immediately following this meeting.
The proposals from the Boundary Commission have been well published and are accessible on both their and CBC’s website so I only propose to summarise these in very broad terms.
The overall changes proposed are as follows:
· To reduce the size of Colchester Borough Council from 60 to 51 councillors
· To redistribute councillor representation in the overall borough on the basis of 17 broadly equally sized wards, with each new ward being represented by three councillors.
Impact of the proposals on the Dedham and Langham Ward
The Dedham and Langham Ward, the population of which is 1,582 and 869 respectively, currently have l councillor. Views expressed within the overall ward can generally be summarised as being supportive of the existing arrangements. The ward councillor, who historically has lived within the ward, is both accessible and knowledgeable about ward affairs in both parishes and has been able to develop positive interaction with the array of organisations and issues that face both parishes. He participates in both formal and informal parish meetings as necessary and the structure is considered to be a positive and effective way of achieving good local representation.
The new proposals as presented propose significant change to the above arrangements in that the Dedham and Langham Parish is now proposed for inclusion in a geographically large new ward – at present called the Rural North – that spans from Dedham in the East to Great Tey in the West. It is proposed that this new ward is served by three councillors.
Initial contact with Langham Parish has demonstrated significant concerns with the proposed arrangements which largely centre around the differences between the parishes involved and the minimal links that exist particularly between those in the east and those in the west. We are not aware of any significant representations that have been made about these proposals by other parishes, with the exception of West Bergholt.
The views of the Parish of West Bergholt are appended to this report and propose an alternative arrangement for the structure of wards which, from their perspective, would be a preferable alternative. We have been invited to comment on and or support these alternative proposals.
Dedham Parish Council has therefore to decide:
· (a) Does it wish to accept the arrangements proposed without further comment?
· (b) Does it wish to indicate a preference for the alternative proposals put forward by West Bergholt?
· (c) Does it wish to reject the proposals put forward and make other proposals?
The principal merit in the proposals put forward is that the grouping together of parishes in the proposed ward of rural north does at least retain a range of parishes that are primarily rural parishes. In this sense many of the issues and concerns facing all these parishes will arguably be similar and different from those facing the central wards of Colchester.
Against this is that notwithstanding the above similarity, each parish will be at different stages of economic and strategic development with significant variety in the range and priority of issues affecting them. This will make their representation at ward level more complex and potentially weaker than current arrangements.
The problem, as ably articulated by West Bergholt, is that having adopted a standard policy of three councillors to each ward, the scope for making alternative proposals whilst achieving a balance in the representation of the electorate, is limited. It appears therefore that notwithstanding the genuine nature of the consultation and the criteria which have been suggested that need to be reflected – the reality is that unless the Boundary Commission is able and willing to accept a more flexible approach to having some wards represented by less than 3 councillors – we are likely to end up with being located within a much larger geographic area.
The alternative proposals put forward by West Bergholt would have the effect of locating Dedham and Langham within a smaller geographic ward, still of rural parishes, which we believe would have greater potential for sharing common problems and infrastructure whilst retaining a similar sized population. To this extent we support this. However, we do have some concern that whilst the proposals, as presented, seem attractive, they would clearly have to be looked at by the Boundary Commission to establish whether the associated impact on the remaining areas of the proposed Lexdon and Braiswick Parish that would have to be incorporated in other wards could be accommodated. If so, then this might be an attractive proposition.
We were not able to propose any other alternatives that we believe to be worthy of consideration.
Recommendations to the Boundary Commission
(agreed by Dedham Parish Council 12.01.15)
· That we are disappointed that the framework already adopted for the Colchester Borough is predicated on a 17 ward 3-councillot structure for each ward, which has limited the option for particularly the smaller, rural wards to have more local and discrete representation.
· The Boundary Commission has identified three principal criteria that it believes must be satisfied to deliver good governance and representation. These are:
- Electoral Quality (each councillor represents a similar number of voters)
- Community Identity (reflects the identity and interests of local communities
- Effective and convenient local government (helping your council discharge its responsibilities effectively
It appears to us that only one of these criteria is fulfilled by the current proposals.
There is no identifiable community interest or link between the range of parishes proposed for inclusion in this new north ward. Furthermore there are no common transport, facility or infrastructure links between the stated parishes.
In terms of effective and convenient local government – it is hard to see how a proposal that would require three new councillors to have a broader geographic range of representation whilst simultaneously having to deal with the different strategies, organisational structures and interests of 11 distinct parishes is either effective or convenient.
· That we find the alternative proposals put forward by West Bergholt Council more attractive in that they retain the groupings of rural parishes that we all seem to support whilst restricting the geographic area and range of representation that would be required. It is also more conceivable that some community of interest and collaboration might be possible within a larger but not unmanageable ward size.
· That if these proposals can be incorporated within a reworked ward arrangement for the Borough we would support this.
We would not support any alternative rearrangement of the ward structures that might incorporate the Dedham and Langham Ward within a grouping that included the wards to the south of us, which would, in our view, be even more diverse and difficult a grouping than that which is currently proposed by the new rural north ward.
Cllr. Sheila Beeton, Chairman,
Dedham Parish Council
13th January 2015.
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