Issue - decisions
Parliamentary Boundary Review
The chairman introduced the item by agreeing to take Cllr Hogan’s motion with it, as it related to the Boundary Commission’s draft proposals.
Cllr Molyneux proposed and Cllr Smart seconded the following motion:
This council asks the Independent Boundary Commission to review the options for the Forest of Dean to try to ensure that the natural makeup of the constituency is maintained, (i.e. a largely rural area, which includes market towns), and that common boundaries that can be crossed should be respected.
Speaking to his motion, he emphasised the need for the Boundary Commission (the Commission) to ensure that all constituencies had approximately the same number of constituents. He also agreed that there were special cases such as the Isle of Wight, but he did not think the Commission would consider the district as a special case. He recognised that the Commission was independent, but to include part of a city in the Forest of Dean constituency would mix the balance. He believed that it was not the council's role to fiddle around with the district's borders, but that it should seek a rural solution from the Commission to maintain a contiguous constituency without uncrossable borders.
Cllr Hogan proposed and Cllr Pugh seconded the following amendment:
That the Forest of Dean District Council resolves to send the following response to the Boundaries Commission’s draft proposals for redefining the parliamentary constituencies within Gloucestershire. Furthermore, this response should be circulated to all principal local authorities within Gloucestershire and all town and parish councils in the Forest of Dean District, Tewkesbury Borough and Gloucester City.
The Forest of Dean District Council is concerned by the Boundaries Commission proposal to join the Westgate Ward from Gloucester City with the Forest of Dean Parliamentary Constituency to form a new parliamentary constituency.
This council believes that combining what is, in effect, the city centre ward of Gloucester with the largely rural Forest of Dean will produce a new constituency with little community of interest and with inbuilt tensions.
The Forest of Dean District Council recognises the requirement to define constituencies with more equal electorates and therefore suggests the following alternative to the Boundaries Commission.
The Hucclecote ward of the Gloucester Parliamentary Constituency should transfer to the Tewkesbury Parliamentary Constituency. The new constituency should be renamed.
The Tewkesbury Priors Park, Tewkesbury Town with Mitton, Tewkesbury Newtown and Twyning wards of the Tewkesbury Parliamentary Constituency should transfer to the Forest of Dean Parliamentary Constituency. The new constituency should be renamed.
These proposals would produce constituencies with the following electorates:
Forest of Dean (renamed) 78,555
Tewkesbury (renamed) 74,391
He emphasised that the Commission was asking for the council's views on its proposal, which had addressed the fact that Gloucester city had too many constituents and the Forest of Dean too few in a simplistic way. His amendment sought a better compromise than to include the cathedral, docks and city council buildings in the Forest of Dean constituency. He believed Cllr Molyneux's motion to be nebulous and it could mean that the MP would represent constituents in three different districts rather than the current two. His amendment was just a suggestion, which, if successful, should be shared with the town, parish and district councils concerned.
Cllr Robinson asked if Cllr Hogan had already contacted those councils.
Cllr Hogan replied that he had spoken to some residents of Tewkesbury. He also confirmed for Cllr Winship that the new constituency would be completely contiguous.
Cllr Bevan expressed his support for the amendment, commenting that the west end of Gloucester city had no relevance for the constituency.
Cllr Robinson expressed discomfort with the amendment, because it presumed to make suggestions that would affect Tewkesbury Borough Council. He added that none of this council's residents would be affected by any changes, since the intention was to increase the number of constituents. He believed that individual councillors should respond to the Commission's proposals and that the amendment was not suitable at this stage.
Cllr Lawton was not comfortable with the Commission's proposals or the suggestion that the constituency should change its name. He welcomed a reduction in the number of MPs and consequent savings, but he wanted a strong MP representing a constituency with rural additions. However the amendment went a little too far in its presumptions.
Cllr Thomson commented that unless Cllr Molyneux could come up with a workable alternative, as he had asked for during the petition debate, councillors knew their area and it was beholden on the council to respond to the Commission.
Cllr Winship commented that the council did not know how much influence it would have over the Commission's decisions, given that it had already sent views regarding the county council changes and had as yet not received a reply.
Cllr Hogan expressed surprise at objections to his motion, which merely suggested an alternative, because the Commission's proposals represented an uncomfortable fit. He suggested that members not be too precious regarding the constituency name. He also believed that the Commission would not consider the constituency as a special case to be left as it was.
He emphasised again that his motion was not even a recommendation but a suggestion,
Cllr Molyneux congratulated Cllr Hogan on his detailed work. However his own motion was not trying to be presumptuous. There were plenty of rural areas around the district for the Commission to consider. He could not accept the amendment and believed that Tewkesbury Borough Council would also not be able to.
When put to the vote Cllr Hogan's amendment was successful.
However before it could become substantive Cllr Whitburn proposed and Cllr Burford seconded a further amendment:
That the Forest of Dean District Council ask that, in view of current developments in Lydney and Cinderford, the Boundary Commission respect the Forest of Dean existing natural boundaries, the two rivers and Wales, thereby maintaining the constituency as a uniquely rural area.
Cllr Burford commented that in a way all councillors had been right in the debate so far. The west of Gloucester was in a city and the rest of the constituency was not. The amendment was reasonable and his ward in the north of the district had more in common with places such as Twyning than it did with Coleford or Cinderford, despite his pride at being part of the Forest of Dean. The Commission might well not accept the district as a special case, but should be made aware of the increase in the number of constituents that the many new homes in Lydney, Cinderford and Newent would bring.
Cllr Bevan agreed that it was a pity that the Commission seemed to have forgotten about the anticipated 4,000 new people in his ward.
Cllr Hogan said that he wished that the Commission's exercise was not taking place, but the government had decreed that constituencies should be broadly the same size. He did not believe that the Commission would change its rules based on planned development. His amendment had sought a better way to keep representation to natural rather than artificial boundaries, but he welcomed a better suggestion.
On being put to the vote by a show of hands Cllr Whitburn's resolution was successful and became the substantive motion.
However when put to the vote as the substantive motion it was unsuccessful.
There was no resolution for this item.
A motion to suspend Council procedure rule A1(b) at 10.15pm to allow
the meeting to continue for up to 30 minutes beyond the normal time limit of
three hours was lost and the chairman adjourned the meeting to the following week - Wednesday 12 October at 7pm.