A STORM began rumbling yesterday – and I don’t mean the extreme weather that arrived in the evening.
I’m talking about the long-awaited publication of Boundary Commission proposals to redraw the Parliamentary map and cut the House of Commons from 650 MPs to 600.
The North West loses seven constituencies – the highest number in any region – and only 14 of the current 75 seats are unchanged.
So – how will it affect you?
As you know, Oldham currently has three constituencies – Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) and part of Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner’s seat which includes wards in Failsworth and Hollinwood).
The new proposals would mean:
- Most of the current Oldham West and Royton constituency would become a new Oldham seat containing Royton South, Chadderton Central, Chadderton North, Chadderton South, Coldhurst, St Mary’s, St James, and Waterhead – plus the addition of Moston.
- Oldham East and Saddleworth would be replaced by a new Littleborough and Saddleworth constituency. This would be made up of Royton North, Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth North, Saddleworth South, along with five Rochdale borough wards.
- Of the remaining wards in our borough it is proposed that Werneth, Hollinwood, and Medlock Vale should join a new Failsworth and Droylsden constituency alongside Failsworth East, Failsworth West, Alexandra and Saddleworth West and Lees – plus the current Tameside wards of Audenshaw, Droylsden East and Droylsden West.
- The Ashton-under-Lyne seat would no longer contain any Oldham borough wards.
We are told that this is all about ensuring “an equal say for each voter” by having more equal-sized constituencies – and cutting costs by £12 million – but what is the real price of these proposals?
Surely the make-up and footprint of all seats has to make geographical sense and context to the people living within them?
Many of the wards and constituencies affected have long-standing identities and associations and there’s plenty in these initial proposals to raise eyebrows…
Is it right, for example, to cut the historic district of Royton in half and move the North ward into a Littleborough and Saddleworth seat alongside Rochdale wards?
Under what rationale does Moston, currently in Manchester Central, fit into the proposed new Oldham seat?
And what reasoning lies behind splitting Saddleworth and Lees away from the rest of Saddleworth – and then planting it in Failsworth and Droylsden?
Obviously I have my own personal views on the proposals and I will be discussing these with councillors across all parties in the coming weeks.
I am more inclined to support proposals that would allow Oldham to be a borough that has two constituency MPs, has none of our wards in another constituency and no wards from outside of the borough in either of our constituencies. That’s common sense.
There are other issues too…
The Boundary Commission set a ‘quota’ size which aims for each constituency to represent around 74,769 voters, but that figure is based on the electoral register as it stood on December 1, 2015.
Since then we know that a further two million people have also registered to vote – many signed up to take part in the Brexit referendum – and they simply haven’t been taken into account in these calculations and proposals.
That’s just a smattering of the issues at stake here and a public consultation on the plans is now under way.
Although final proposals will not be made until 2018 you have just 12 weeks to put your views forward.
If agreed by Parliament the new boundaries would be in place by the 2020 general election.
I would urge everyone reading this to take the time to look at the proposals and have your say on them. Visit here to find out how.
Two more vital points this week…
Firstly, I can reveal that we will be announcing the opening date for the Old Town Hall next Monday – and I will comment further on that next time.
And last but not least, I must pay tribute to another remarkable athlete, and a former Oldham resident, Sascha Kindred OBE.
The 38-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has been a household name in Paralympics for the past two decades and is one-half of a ‘golden couple’ with his wife and celebrated fellow swimmer Nyree Lewis.
Although he now lives in Herefordshire, Sascha is an ex-Kaskenmoor School pupil who moved here from Germany as a young boy.
On Monday he marked the last-ever appearance of his Paralympic career by setting a new world record time to win his seventh gold medal since his first games in 1996.
Sacha’s positive attitude and determination also shines in his work as a motivational speaker and this is a fitting final chapter of what has been a truly glittering career.