25th September 2017By Graham SmithCornwall councillors face a nail-biting few hours before learning the final…
EXCLUSIVE: Cornwall Council boundary review poses bigger threat to Lib Dems than to other parties
9th July 2017
By Graham Smith
The proposed shake-up of Cornwall Council ward boundaries poses a greater risk to Liberal Democrat councillors than to those of other parties, an analysis of official data has revealed.
A Local Government Boundary Commission proposal to reduce the number of councillors by 36, representing a 29% reduction in the overall size, hides the disproportionate way the axe will fall if current methodology is applied.
The Commission’s intention is that every vote should be of equal value and that new council wards should contain roughly the same number of citizens. The Commission insists it has a “blind justice” approach to the reorganisation and is not responsible for the historic background which means it is currently easier to get elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in areas with smaller populations.
Data due to be presented to the council’s Electoral Review Panel on Tuesday includes a break-down of Community Network Areas (CNAs), currently the favourite method of crunching numbers. This method cannot provide a complete solution because a small number of councillors serve in more than one CNA where ward boundaries overlap. Nevertheless, five CNAs are facing a cut of 40% in their numbers of councillors and this allows a crude overview of where the cuts will have to be made.
Those councillors in the “high risk” CNAs are, statistically, 11% more likely to lose their positions than the Cornwall average. And 44% of them are Liberal Democrats. For example, a councillor in Launceston is twice as likely to be abolished as one from Truro and the Roseland.
Within these CNAs, mostly in the north and east of Cornwall, 25 councillors will see their numbers reduced to just 15 if the Boundary Commission proceeds with its recommended size of council. And of the 25 most “at risk” councillors, 11 are Liberal Democrats. Nine are Conservatives, three are Independents, and Labour and Mebyon Kernow have one each.
The most recent elections left the Liberal Democrats with 37 councillors. Nearly 30% of them are in the most “high risk” CNAs.” The Conservatives won 46 councillors. But only 20% of the Tories are in the “high risk” areas.
The Launceston Community Network Area members: Adam Paynter, Jade Farrington, Neil Burden, Gemma Massey and Adrian Parsons. An 87-member council, as proposed by the Boundary Commission, would abolish two of them.
The north and east of Cornwall is in stark contrast to a relatively “low risk” CNA – Truro and Roseland – which is facing only a 20% cut. There are currently 10 councillors within this CNA but only two are Liberal Democrats. Three are Conservatives and five are Independent.
The most “at risk” CNAs are Caradon, Launceston, St Agnes & Perranporth, St Blazey, Fowey & Lostwithiel and Wadebridge & Padstow. Any councillor in any of these areas is currently facing a 40% chance of seeing their ward abolished.
In the Launceston CNA, for example, where the Lib Dems currently hold four out of five seats, the Boundary Commission’s preferred size of council would mean only three wards would remain. Liberal Democrat council leader Adam Paynter would be among those most at risk as his Launceston North and North Petherwin division could be abolished.
The Lib Dems deputy group leader, St Austell councillor Malcolm Brown, is in a CNA area facing a 29% cut – which is “average risk.” He is chairman of the Electoral Review Panel, tasked with producing maps of the new electoral divisions.
Officials are now studying ways of re-drawing boundaries within CNAs to produce an 87-member council in which each member represents roughly the same number of voters.
After the five most “at risk” CNAs come Liskeard (37% cut), Cornwall Gateway (37% cut), Camelford (33% cut), China Clay (33% cut), Hayle & St Ives (33% cut), West Penwith (33% cut), Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth (29% cut), Helston and South Kerrier (29% cut), St Austell and Mevagissey (29% cut), Newquay and St Columb (28% cut), Bude (25% cut), Bodmin (25% cut), Falmouth and Penryn (22% cut) and Truro & Roseland (20% cut).
The council is not obliged to pursue a CNA-based methodology but other options, such as a parish-based map, lead to even greater difficulties when it comes to producing divisions of equal size.