Thursday, January 12, 2012

Electoral Boundary Changes for Swansea

The proposals for changes to the parliamentary constituency changes in Wales were published yesterday.
Immediately jumping to pages 21 to 23 to see what happens in my back yard, it appears that one of the most controversial proposals is happening right here.

The proposals have been prompted by the governments decision to cut the number of MP's. To achieve this they have come up with a magical number of 76,461 - that being the ideal number of voters in each constituency. As such they have juggled the electoral divisions in constituencies to try and acheive a minimum of 72810 and maximum of 80473 voters in each constituency.

The big news for the Swansea area is that the proposals have decided to move the electoral divisions of Clydach, Mawr and half of Llansamlet in to Neath. Llansamlet is a special case as they have decided to split it in two - the area of Llansamlet south of the M4 stays in Swansea East, the community of Birchgrove to the north of the M4 gets shoved in Neath.
These communities are very much a part of Swansea and have nothing to do with the area of Neath. The areas are part of City and County of Swansea and shall continue to pay Swansea the Council Tax, have their rubbish/recycling collected by Swansea council and use the services provided by Swansea Council.

Yet they shall be represented by a local councillor in Swansea, a Neath MP at Westminster and a Swansea AM at Cardiff Bay.

On the west side of Swansea there are further changes. These involve merging Swansea West and Gower into one constituency, which seems sensible. However, in order to meet the magic figures they have had to exclude certain electoral divisions. Gorseinon , Llangyfelach, Penllegaer, Penyrheol and Pontardulais all move to the Llanelli constituency.

Once again this is a ridiculous proposal that places a community in a constituency that has nothing to do with the local authority to which it belongs.

When you consider the number of electorate that are excluded from their local authority area in Swansea West : Gorseinon (3,199), Llangyfelach (3,865), Penllergaer (2,248), Penyrheol (4,435) and Pontardulais (4,776) then it is only 18,523 voters. This is a small number over a large area, compared to denser areas such as London or Birmingham.

Similarly in Swansea East the number of electorate that are excluded from Swansea are : Clydach (5,850), Mawr (1,485) and Birchgrove (4,906), then the number is only 12,241.

The reorganisation of the boundaries was always going to be controversial, but they seem to be instigated by hitting the 72810 to 80473 target. The 7663 margin is very small and it would only take a year or so for these margins to be exceeded due to migration, house building and as more people reach voting age.

Perhaps the best way to address the problems is to allow a larger target number of electorate in Wales. If there was more flexibility on number of voters in a constituency then this would lead to less contentious proposals being made.

Reporting on this has so far been light, but once again it comes to the local rag to get things wrong.
South Wales Evening Post today publishes a story on it, but bungles it by saying Alltwen moves to the Neath constituency - it's already in it guys.

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