Major changes to the electoral map in the East proposed

13 September 2016

Following the announcement of new proposed boundaries for Parliamentary constituencies, Norwich Green Party members have expressed concern about what they say is a deliberate attempt to hand more seats to the Conservatives.

Under the proposed changes, Wensum ward (which covers the area around Bowthorpe Road and a large part of the city north of Earlham Road) will no longer be part of the Norwich South constituency. In its place will come Cringleford and Old Costessey, which were formerly in South Norfolk. [1]

Martin Schmierer, who leads the Green Party group on Norwich City Council, declared this to be “little more than gerrymandering”:

He added:

"This is clearly designed to benefit the Conservative Party by bringing Conservative-leaning areas into Norwich South, basically making it a marginal constituency. The only beneficiaries seem to be the Tories – certainly not the people of Norwich."

Councillor Schmierer also expressed concern that Norwich was underrepresented following a change in the law, under which every voter now has to register to vote individually rather than by household. This has led to a significant fall in the number of people registered. The proposed changes are based on these lower numbers.

“Since the decision to introduce individual voter registration, Norwich's electorate has fallen,” he said. “This is the case across the UK, with around 57,000 people in Birmingham for example dropping off the register. [2] If you look at the figures, it is mostly students and ethnic minorities who have been lost from the register.

“In Norwich South we have a large student population with both the UEA and NUA and as a result I am certain that we as a city are getting a bad deal from these boundary changes.”

The electoral map of Suffolk is also set to be altered. Under the proposed changes, a number of parliamentary seats would see changes, with Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket particularly affected.

This is an area which the Greens have done particularly well in recent years taking council seats from the Conservatives.

Local Green Party Councillor, John Matthissen, said:

“We'll be producing a considered response once we've looked at the maps and numbers in detail, but we have concerns that the Boundary Commission is excluding villages with close links to Stowmarket, which at present will not be part of the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket constituency.

He also questioned the motives for this change, saying:

“Across the UK 1 in 8 adults are not registered to vote at the moment, which equates to about 6million voters. This gives us a major democratic deficit which is far worse than slight differences in the numbers of electors in the constituencies.

“The Boundary Commission places too much emphasis on the precise numbers rather than the social and economic geography and underlying demographic factors which see wards and constituencies change in size over time.”

The Green Party’s national leadership also condemned the proposals, with new co-leader Jonathan Bartley arguing that it is the system itself, not the boundaries, that need to be changed.

He said:

“Only a Government with a profoundly skewed set of priorities would plough ahead with this boundary review while ignoring the deep rooted sickness that afflicts our democracy. If Ministers were in the least bit serious about enhancing our democracy then they would immediately bring forward proposals for an elected second chamber, rather than continuing to use the House of Lords as a retirement village for their friends. And if they want to seriously give each and every voter an equal say then surely the only solution is to have a fair voting system for the House of Commons.”

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