Lewisham Council yesterday announced its own counter-proposals for parliamentary boundary changes, strongly criticising the new plans published by the Boundary Commission.
Councillors are fighting back against the Boundary Commission for England’s planned changes to constituencies, under which the borough will no longer have three dedicated MPs.
They argue the changes would leave Lewisham under-represented in parliament. Lewisham’s electorate increased by around 18 per cent before the EU referendum, while other south London boroughs such as Southwark and Lambeth grew by under 10 per cent. This growth has not been taken into account in the review, which used constituency figures from December 2015.
Councillor Alan Hall, who has been heading the counter-argument against the changes, said at yesterday’s full council meeting: “Lewisham has the highest increase in new voter registration in the whole of the UK. Yet we are going to have our three dedicated Lewisham parliamentary seats cut.”
“It runs counter to common sense, fairness and democratic principles,” added Hall, Chairman of the Lewisham Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. “It is also just plain stupid, as the maths doesn’t reflect the reality.”
The Labour councillor said: “We are not going to just roll over and accept this gerrymandering lying down. Even though we know the Government is intent on pushing this through, we will not lose the opportunity to highlight the fact this is a Tory stitch up.”
Vicky Foxcroft, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, has joined councillors in hitting out against the proposals. “The Boundary Commission bill is deeply flawed,” she said.
“There are so many problems in solely using the 1 December 2015 electoral register to determine our population. In Lewisham Deptford over 7000 people signed on to the electoral register around the time of the EU referendum. None of these people would be taken into consideration.”
Under the Boundary Commission plans, Lewisham West and Penge would be extended west into Peckham and would lose its southernmost part, becoming Peckham and Lewisham West. Lewisham East and Lewisham Deptford would be split into Lewisham Catford, and Greenwich and Deptford.
Constituency boundaries extending into Peckham and Greenwich would mean MPs could not focus as extensively on Lewisham residents, and this has led to claims that it will strip residents of political power and representation. Lewisham Councillors have also expressed concerns about how connected these communities are that will be grouped into the same constituency and whether their concerns were “coherent” enough for one person to represent them.
Lewisham Council proposes three alternative parliamentary boroughs: Lewisham Greenwich, Lewisham West and Dulwich, and Lewisham Deptford and Catford.
The boundary changes will also affect the other boroughs which Eastlondonlines serves.
Photo 1: Proposals for existing boundaries. Photo 2: BCE Proposals. Photo 3: Counter proposals.
Croydon will still have three seats, Croydon Central, Croydon North, and Croydon South, but these will be reshuffled to make the number of electors more equal. Fieldway and Heathfield will move from Croydon Central to Croydon South, while Croham and Purley will move the other way.
Hackney’s two constituencies will both no longer exist, being replaced by Hackney Central and Hackney West & Bethnal Green, both of which are very different in make-up to the previous seats.
In Tower Hamlets, the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency will be dissolved and split between new constituency Bow and Canning Town and neighbouring Poplar and Limehouse. The latter constituency will keep its name, but its makeup is also set to change.
MPs in Hackney and Tower Hamlets have followed Lewisham’s lead in criticising the proposed changes.
Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: “The review doesn’t take into consideration the thousands of people in Hackney who registered to vote in the last year, including those in the run up to the EU referendum. Ignoring these voters is unfair and undemocratic.”
Hillier added that she hoped the Boundary Commission would make changes to its proposals, given that the first consultation period is not yet over.
The London Labour Party has also laid out counter-proposals for the boundary review. These would change Poplar and Limehouse to Poplar and Canning Town, and add a Hackney East and Bow constituency, which would solidify Diane Abbott’s position in the new Hackney Central seat. A spokesperson for Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, said he fully supports these proposals.
The Boundary Commission will take on board feedback from the public in deciding whether to revise its proposals. An initial consultation period is open until December 5.
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