To consider the initial proposals of the Boundary Commission for England in relation to the North East that were published on 8 June 2021, in particular to the two Parliamentary Constituencies located within the Borough of North Tyneside.
(*Note: In accordance with the provisions of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012, notice is given that this item has not been subject to 28 days’ notice as the Boundary Commissions proposals were published on 8 June 2021 and they are required to be considered at this meeting to enable Cabinet to consider the initial proposals and to consult full Council prior to the submission of the Authority’s views by the deadline of 2 August 2021.)
Cabinet was informed that the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) was currently conducting a review of the boundaries of all Parliamentary constituencies in Englandand would report to the Parliament on its recommendations for boundary changes in July 2023. A report was considered which outlined the initial proposals of the BCE that had been published on 8 June 2021, in particular to the two parliamentary Constituencies located withing the Borough of North Tyneside.
The rules governing the 2023 Review retained the overall number of constituencies across the UK at 650, but they applied a distribution formula that resulted in an increase in the number of constituencies in England from 533 to 543. The rules required the Boundary Commission to ensure that every recommended constituency,apart from two ‘protected’ constituencies (in the Isle of Wight), had roughly the same number of electors; no fewer than 69,724 and no more than 77,062.
The initial proposals allocated 27 constituencies for the North East – a reduction of 2 from the current number. There was a proposed reduction in the number of constituencies in the Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, and Northumberland sub-region from 9 to 8.
The number of electors for the current North Tyneside and Tynemouth constituencies exceeded the permitted electorate rate and the Commission had therefore proposed some significant changes for those constituencies as follows and which were illustrated on maps of revised boundaries that were appended to the report.:
The North Tyneside constituency would be divided up and its wards allocated between the proposed Tynemouth constituency and Newcastle upon Tyne North constituency.
The Newcastle upon Tyne North constituency would comprise five wards within the North Tyneside Council area - Benton, Camperdown, Killingworth, Longbenton and Weetslade wards - together with four wards within the Newcastle City Council area - with an electorate of 74,087.
The Tynemouth constituency would comprise ten wards – Battle Hill, Chirton, Collingwood, Cullercoats, Howdon, Northumberland, Preston, Riverside, Tynemouth and Wallsend with an electorate of 76,984.
A new Whitley Bay and Cramlington constituency would be created comprising five wards within the North Tyneside Council area - Monkseaton North, Monkseaton South, St Mary’s, Valley and Whitley Bay wards – together with nine wards within the Northumberland County Council area with an electorate of 74,510.
The Boundary Commissionwas consulting on its initial proposals for an 8-week period, from 8 June to 2 August 2021.
Further consultation arrangements following feedback from the consultation on the initial proposals and the process for the formal submission by the Commission of its final recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Commons were set out in the report.
The submission of the formal final report concluded the BCE’s involvement in the constituency review process. The procedure to subsequently implement new constituencies was the responsibility of the Government.
The Elected Mayor and Cabinet Members expressed their opposition to the BCE’s proposals for the following reasons:
· The primary aim of the proposals appears to be a numeracy exercise to ensure constituencies are more equally balanced in terms of voter numbers rather than recognising the identity and ties of local communities.
· North Tyneside Council is committed to enabling delivery of sustainable communities that have a sense of place and identity and protecting the character and attractiveness of existing communities. The proposals are detrimental to communities in North Tyneside. The proposed new constituencies will cut across and split a number of the Borough’s established neighbourhoods and communities. The proposals ignore local ties, sense of place and identity and will be disruptive to many communities. For two of the proposed constituencies they also propose to combine a number of existing wards in the Borough with wards outside of the North Tyneside area with which they have no connection.
· The proposed boundaries and constituency sizes do not take into account future population growth and housing development. With some significant strategic housing developments expected to be built, for example at Murton Gap, Killingworth Moor and on the Newcastle side of the proposed Newcastle North constituency boundary, and the consequent likely growth in population in those areas, the size of those constituencies will potentially be considerably higher than the upper limit set for the Boundary Commission’s review.
· North Tyneside Council has been used to operating with two Parliamentary Constituencies wholly within its boundary. Under current arrangements the residents of North Tyneside are well served by having two MPs focussing on the issues that have a major impact on the Borough. Under the new proposals the Borough would be split across three parliamentary constituencies compared to the current two. The new proposals could cause problems for the Council in liaising with three separate members of Parliament as well as for MPs in dealing with more than one local authority and such change would also cause confusion for residents.
Cabinet considered the following decision options: to accept the recommendations set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report; or alternatively, to not accept the recommendations.
Resolved that (1) Cabinet do not support the initial proposals of the review of the Boundary Commission for England in relation to the Parliamentary Constituencies within the North Tyneside Council area for the reasons summarised above;
(2) the views of full Council be sought on the proposals at its meeting to be held on 22 July 2021; and
(3) the Elected Mayor be authorised to write to the Boundary Commission for England on behalf of the Authority expressing the Authority’s views on the proposals following the Council meeting.
(Reason for decision: This will enable the views of the Authority to be submitted to the Boundary Commission for England by the deadline of 2 August 2021.)