Colnbrook transfer to Spelthorne could be back on the agenda within weeks
Controversial proposals to transfer Colnbrook into the Spelthorne constituency, scrapped in 2013, could be back on the table in just over a month when the Boundary Commission reveals its revised plans.
Colnbrook with Poyle could find itself transferred from Windsor into the Spelthorne parliamentary constituency in 2018 if the Boundary Commission for England proceeds with plans abandoned three years ago in a Coalition fudge. However, having been instructed by Parliament to ditch the previous review in 2013 it will, in theory at least, be starting the process again from scratch.
The Boundary Commission kicked off the process of redrawing the map of parliamentary constituency boundaries again on 24th February. Its objective remains the same locally: it must reduce the number of MPs in the South East from 83 to 81 and, in that respect, we could expect to see very similar proposals adopted again. Locally the problem is that Slough has grown rapidly and is now under represented in Parliament. Last time around, the Boundary Commission recommended that Slough should lose Cippenham Meadows to Windsor. Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart hit out at the “disrespect” the proposals showed to Slough.
But the Boundary Commission also 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 was therefore to pay the price of minimising disruption to its neighbours.
With constituencies normally using ward boundaries as the building blocks for constituencies, Colnbrook with Poyle remains an obvious target this time around. It is the only Slough ward not part of the Slough constituency, while it is the only ward in Windsor not part of either Windsor & Maidenhead or Bracknell Forest local authority areas.
The Commission says its current intention is to publish its Initial Proposals for new constituencies on Tuesday, 13 September 2016. However, that date is subject to change.
The publication of the proposals will begin a 12-week consultation period, during which the Commission will invite comments on the proposals to capture the views and knowledge of local residents. No doubt, as last time, the proposals will be keenly awaited. In December 2012 the Colnbrook Community Association held a consultation on the move which was unanimously rejected by those residents who responded.
The Commission will also be travelling across England in the autumn to hear from people in person. All comments will help the Commission further refine the boundary proposals before views are sought on any revisions later in 2017. The Commission must make its final recommendations to Parliament in 2018.
Has anything changed since last time?
As a starting point the Boundary Commission is required to use updated electoral figures, as it legally must make sure that consistuencies are similarly sized.
The total UK electorate has actually decreased: the Office for National Statistics recently announced the electorate during the 2015 General Election was 44,722,004, down from 46,455,889 in 2010. Could that reduce the pressure to transfer wards?
In the 2010 General Election there were already 92,593 registered to vote in parliamentary elections in the Slough Borough Council area. That had fallen considerably to just 88,993 by 1st December year, despite a large population increase, as a result of individual voter registration.
But the number of electors in each mainland English constituency must be no less than 71,031 and no more than 78,507 and there are simply too many in Slough to allow local government and constituency boundaries to be uniform. Slough constituency (already without Colnbrook) had 77,127 on the electoral roll while in 2015 and that had increased to 86,360 for the May 2015 General Election.
That Slough will have to cede further territory to a neighbouring constituency would appear still to be on the cards. But the proposed transfer of Colnbrook last time was about redressing an over-representation in other areas, as the Commission acknowledged, and we will have to wait until next month to know if it will push for the same this time around.