The Boundary Commission have published their initial proposals to redraw the parliamentary constituency boundaries but I believe that these are unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable. I was joined by council leader Jean Stretton, ex-Ashton under Lyne MP, David Heyes, local councillors Adrian Alexander and Steve Hewitt and constituents, to challenge the Boundary Commission’s proposed changes to the parliamentary constituency boundaries for Oldham and Saddleworth at a consultation held in Manchester on Wednesday.
The proposals are based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register with nearly two million voters missing. Planning to reduce the democratically elected number of MPs from 650 to 600 at the same time as appointing 260 extra Peers to the Lords shows that this review is designed for the Tories’ own political advantage rather what is in the best interests of the country.
Locally, the proposals from the Boundary Commission are devastating for Oldham and Saddleworth.
In my view it is essential that Oldham and Saddleworth has a coherent settlement in the boundary review; something that’s completely missing in these proposals. The previous recommendation in 2011 left the borough with the ‘left overs’ splitting historic towns and communities, and this one is no better. The current number of registered voters easily allows for two whole constituencies within the borough which respect historic towns and community ties.
I am proud of the work we have done locally, from the Oldham Fairness Commission to the Oldham Education and Skills Commission, and developing a Dementia Friendly Oldham, and our work on building strong integrated communities. These proposals are once again an insult to the people of Oldham and Saddleworth and could have a divisive effect on our community’s representation in Parliament.
I will be working constructively to try and ensure the final outcome reflects the identity of communities within Oldham and Saddleworth.
Please read below for the summary of my speech to the Boundary Commission panel:
“I speak to oppose the initial proposals for constituency boundary changes as they relate to Oldham and Saddleworth on the following grounds.
Firstly, the proposals split the historic communities of Saddleworth and Royton.
Saddleworth as a discrete area was first documented in the Doomsday Book, but there is evidence, from Castleshaw Roman Fort remains that Saddleworth as a community pre-dates this.
We have established communities that go back centuries.
Saddleworth has a distinct and unique identity which local residents identify with very strongly.
We believe that the proposals impact on communities and they need to be considered under Rule 5, Schedule 2 of the Boundary Commission guidance.
Secondly, each of the proposed parliamentary boundaries for Littleborough and Saddleworth, Oldham Central, Failsworth and Droylsden cross a number of local authority boundaries as previously mentioned and there’s absolutely no coherence with any one of them.
Again both the Boundary Commission guidance and the Act says this must be considered.
Finally, in the case of the proposed Littleborough and Saddleworth constituencies there are no community, administrative, or even direct public transport links. This, again, needs to be considered in relation to the Boundary Commission guidance.
And similarly the Failsworth and Droylsden proposed constituency also has the issue of direct public transport links and no relationship in terms of community and administrative boundaries.
We believe that on these grounds there is significant opportunity to challenge the proposals that have been put forward. But also on the grounds of population there is justification for two Oldham parliamentary constituencies which are coterminous with Oldham council local authority boundaries.
Indeed this is the conclusion that the former Boundary Commission review in 2013 came to and I do hope that the points that have been made will be considered in your revised proposals.”