Plans to reduce number of MPs receive mixed response

FORMER Parliamentary candidate Howard Sykes says a potential future reduction in the number of MPs isn’t as an alarming prospect as some politicians have claimed. 

However, Cllr Sykes MBE, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Oldham Council, remains sceptical the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) blueprint will ever become reality.

Under plans recently unveiled by the BCE, the current total of 650 constituencies will be reduced to 600, and each constituency will roughly have the same number of voters.

If successful, Shaw and Crompton will be removed from the Labour seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, which is currently held by MP Debbie Abrahams.

Instead, it will form part of an area now partly under the jurisdiction of veteran Socialist, Tony Lloyd, one-time MP for Manchester Central, the first Greater Manchester Police Commissioner and now MP for Rochdale.

Under the changes Shaw and Crompton would go in with Balderstone and Kirkholt, Littleborough, Lakeside, Milnrow and Newhey, Smallbridge and Firgrove, Wardle and West Littleborough, Saddleworth North, Saddleworth, Saddleworth West and Lees – forming the Saddleworth and Littleborough constituency.

Areas that would join with Shaw and Crompton under the proposed boundary changes to form a new Saddleworth and LIttleborough constituency

Cllr Sykes, who was runner-up to Phil Woolas in Oldham East and Saddleworth in the 2001 General Election, welcomes the Commission’s decision not to split the Royton (two) and Saddleworth (three) wards.

However, he added: “It is regrettable this is a pure numbers game.

“Each MP has the same size electorate, across Greater Manchester and beyond, which means parliamentary constituencies will have to cross local authority boundaries.

“But it is very much a return to the previous seat. Shaw and Crompton was previously in Littleborough and Saddleworth, albeit with a slightly different mix of wards this time.

“Many of these places do have things in common. So, not quite the doom and gloom others would say. They make much more sense that the original suggestions.

“However, once again people in Shaw and Crompton will belong in a constituency that does not include them in its name.

“Rules do not allow it but it would be very welcome by local residents I am sure.

“The key question is will parliament ever approve the proposals – which must be in some doubt.”

A Saddleworth and Littleborough constituency previously existed until 1997 and Littlleborough is currently in the Rochdale ward under Tony Lloyd.

The new Oldham Borough constituency would cover: Chadderton North, Chadderton Central, Chadderton South, Coldhurst, Royton North, Royton South, St James, Waterhead and Moston.

Alexandra, Hollinwood, Medlock Vale, St Mary’s Werneth and Failsworth East and West would join with Audenshaw and Droylsden East and West from Tameside to form the Failsworth and Droylsden constituency.

Two consultations have been held already and the latest proposals have now been put forward following written and oral feedback and comments from the public.

It is widely perceived Labour will suffer most under the re-structuring.

Mrs Abrahams, the sitting MP since 2010, said: “The Boundary Commission have published their revised proposals but I believe they are still unfair undemocratic and unacceptable.

“While it is encouraging to see the commission have agreed to unite the Saddleworth ward as I lobbied, I believe the proposals are devastating for Oldham and Saddleworth as it breaks up the constituency and direct links with local authority boundaries.

“In my view it is essential that Oldham and Saddleworth has a coherent settlement in the boundary review, something that’s still missing in these proposals.

“The proposals are also based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register with nearly two million voters missing.

“Planning to reduce the number of MPs at the same time as appointing hundreds of extra Peers to the Lords shows this review is designed for the Tories’ own political advantage rather what is in the best interest of the country.

She added: “These proposals are an insult to the people of Oldham and Saddleworth and could have a divisive effect on our community’s representative in Parliament.

“I will continue to work constructively to try and ensure the final outcome reflects the identity of communities within Oldham and Saddleworth.”

At the 2017 General Election Mrs Abrahams retained her seat and increased her majority, polling 25,629 votes and beating Conservative candidate Kashif Ali on 17,447 votes.

People can go to the BCE’s website – www.bce2018.org.uk – to view the new plans and comment before December 11, 2017.

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