Council supports boundary changes – but with serious reservations

Observatory comp
Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers
Observatory comp Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers

Radical proposed changes to parliamentary boundaries have been officially supported by Burnley Borough Council – although its leader admitted members had many reservations.

The changes, announced by the Boundary Commission in September, would see the end of Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley as we know it as part of a historic move to reduce the number of MPs across the country.

My personal view is that this should not be happening at all because it’s blatantly just a Tory project to reduce the number of Labour MPs

Council leader Mark Townsend

Proposed changes released by the Boundary Commission will see Pendle disappear with Nelson submerged into a new Burnley constituency, while Colne would join the Ribble Valley.

Burnley Council met this week to discuss the proposals, and decided that the Chief Executive should write to the Boundary Commission supporting the changes to the Burnley Parliamentary boundary.

However, leader Coun. Mark Townsend said: “My personal view is that this should not be happening at all because it’s blatantly just a Tory project to reduce the number of Labour MPs – Tory gerrymandering on a national scale.

“The Boundary Commission has made the best proposals it can in the circumstances.”

The council will tell the Commission it does not agree with the Government’s arbitrary policy of slashing the number of MPs given the UK’s rising population.

It also believes the proposals are based on out of date electoral registration data.

Coun. Townsend added: “The Government has not proposed a reduction in the size of the executive. In making the executive branch bigger relative to the legislature, the proposals weaken Parliament’s ability to scrutinise and hold ministers to account.

“Neither are there any plans to reduce the number of peers, which means the elected House of Commons will shrink while the unelected House of Lords remains bloated. Since 2011, 144 new peerages have been created.

“However, Burnley Council supports the principle of creating constituencies of roughly similar sized populations, and believes that the 2016 proposals are a significant improvement on those put forward in 2012.

“While it would have been preferable to retain the current boundary between the district council and the Parliamentary constituency, the 2016 proposals do at least keep the main towns of Burnley and Padiham largely intact.”