Boundary review set to move Colnbrook to Spelthorne expected to begin in Spring 2016

Colnbrook’s move to the Spelthorne constituency is now back on the agenda following Conservative briefings over the weekend.

Following the unexpected Westminster election result on Thursday a newly ebullient David Cameron is understood to be moving ahead swiftly with boundary changes aborted in 2013.

Free of the {anchor | shackles | ball and chain} [delete as appropriate] of the Lib Dems, the new Government will be pushing ahead to reorganise parliamentary constituency boundaries.  The Lib Dems rebelled over the boundary changes in January 2013 in a tit-for-tat move, following the defeat of Lords’ reform and changes to the voting system by the Conservatives in the first big Coalition bust-up.

The changes were originally proposed in order to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies in England from 533 to 502, with all of them coming within a 5% margin of an electorate of 76,641.

The Government wants to make all constituencies in the UK roughly equal sized.  The policy was featured in the Conservative manifesto although barely mentioned during the campaign.  Draft recommendations produced by the Boundary Commission in 2013 proposed that Colnbrook with Poyle would move to a enlarged Spelthorne constituency.

The Conservative party would benefit most from the changes.  Scotland is considerably over-represented in Parliament and would see the number of its MPs cut, while the growth of populations in the traditionally more Conservative South East are expected to give the party an extra 20 MPs.

However some of the Sunday newspapers this weekend also noted that the Government may drop the planned reduction in the number of MPs in a move designed to avoid a rebellion from back bench Conservatives where new boundaries would require fresh elections to be fought.

In December 2012 the Colnbrook Community Association held a consultation on the move which was unanimously rejected by those residents who responded.  And even Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart hit out at the “disrespect” the proposals showed to Slough, even though Colnbrook is already tagged with Windsor.

It has decided to make Slough the victim of Surrey’s difficulties, handing Colnbrook and Poyle to a different county, but worse, shoving one of the wards which includes the central part of Slough, Cippenham Meadows, into Windsor, claiming wrongly that it has better transport links to Windsor than eastern wards.

She called on Adam Afriyie to campaign on the issue with her in October 2012.

In a story that is now all too familiar in Colnbrook, the Boundary Commission argued that in order to keep the impact of boundary changes to as few constituencies as possible it would go against its own principles and allow a cross-county constituency.  Colnbrook with Poyle would therefore pay the price of minimising disruption to its neighbours.

The Commission currently plans to formally begin working on the next review in the spring of 2016, with the intention of submitting its final recommendations to government by the early autumn of 2018.  The Commission follows a 3-step process: a 12-week consultation on its initial proposals; a 4-week consultation on evidence and views received; and an 8-week final consultation on revised proposals.  Although the Commission did not quite reach the stage of making final recommendations before the 2013 review was postponed it had conducted all the consultation stages outlined above.

Legislation passed in 2011 enforced boundary reviews every 5 years, but the 2013 Commons defeat saw the next review deferred to 2018.

However, if the newly elected ward and parish councillors thought they had time to get their feet under the desk before they start thinking about the impact of the changes, they wont.

The General Election has seen previous complaints resurface that Colnbrook is disadvantaged (and largely ignored) as a result of being within Slough for Local Elections and Windsor for General Elections.  Ironically the forerunner of the Colnbrook Residents Association was responsible for bringing together the parts of Colnbrook, Poyle, Brands Hill and Westfield that sat in three counties under Slough.

Last time around the Parish Council failed to respond to the Commission.  However, earlier in 2012 it fought against changes to Slough’s ward boundaries that would have seen Colnbrook with Poyle more tightly integrated with Langley.  Former councillor Mike Nye successfully called for the Commission to rethink its argument that the M4 “did not represent a major boundary between communities”.

Could the new parish, ward councillors and community groups find sufficient common ground to develop a vision and lobby for Colnbrook's anomalous local authority and parliamentary borders to be finally unified?  It is perhaps unlikely that 5 newly elected Labour councillors would support a move to a Conservative neighbour, while Slough itself is already heavily under represented in Parliament.  On the other hand, should a Third Runway go ahead, a new "major barrier" would drive an insurmountable wedge between the village and the rest of Slough (and, of course, South Bucks).  The Local Government Boundary Commission might be persuaded into a rethink.  It would, of course, take a vision and collaboration on a scale not seen in the village in 20 years ...

View the 2013 plan in PDF format here.

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