Responses to Stage Two of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission closed yesterday (April 4th) when comments were invited on the proposals and counter-proposals made to the Boundary Commission by interested parties relating to the Commission’s original suggestions.
The Commission will now consider all these responses and in the Autumn, the Commission will publish its revised response. There will then be a further consultation and the final boundary proposal from the Commission will be submitted in the summer of 2023. The new boundaries will only take effect at the next General Election if this is after they become law. Apart from some islands, all Parliamentary constituencies must have the same number of voters +/- 5%; in practice this means between 69,724 and 77,062 voters. Because of population movements, the Commission has to revise Parliamentary boundaries every few years.
This is the response submitted to the Commission by Michael Fabricant:-
While regretting any change to the Lichfield Constituency boundaries and particularly losing Whittington, I broadly welcome the Commission’s proposals recognising that population changes require this. However, at least 374 people responded to the Commission’s proposals for the Lichfield Parliamentary Constituency in effect welcoming the Commission’s findings, but with the exception that they oppose the move of Streethay into Tamworth. I firmly agree with these responses as does Mr Christopher Pincher, the MP for Tamworth who also recognises that Streethay is an integral part of Lichfield.
The Labour Party Proposals:
I strongly oppose the proposal made by the National Labour Party that the Lichfield constituency should be split in two. Their plan demonstrates no understanding of the area and shows every sign of gerrymandering to boost their vote in marginal seats.
The Labour proposal to combine Burntwood with Stone and Penkridge seeks to create a link with North Staffordshire which is a very different entity. From 1992-1997, I was the MP for Mid Staffordshire which included Lichfield and Stone. The latter looks, in terms of work, leisure and shopping, towards Stafford and Manchester while Lichfield looks southwards towards Birmingham and London. Most people I meet in Stone had never been to Lichfield and vice versa. It was a very inhomogeneous constituency and this, broadly, is what Labour are proposing again.
The link between Lichfield and Aldridge is equally, if not more, bizarre. Lichfield is a Cathedral City in a Shire County. To cross District and County borders to link the City with the West Midlands conurbation of Walsall shows no understanding of local feeling and sensitivities.
It is worth recording that these national Labour proposals were not supported by the 11 Labour councillors on Lichfield District Council who voted for a Motion passed unanimously by the Council on 22nd February 2022 in a full Council Meeting which stated:
“That this Council:
– notes the Boundary Commission for England’s initial proposals to move the ward of Whittington & Streethay into the proposed Tamworth County Constituency
– recognises the exceptionally strong public support for retaining Streethay in the Lichfield Constituency
– acknowledges the inextricable links that Streethay has with Lichfield, including commuting patterns, schooling, shopping and access to healthcare.
– welcomes the recognition by the Boundary Commission that the splitting of a ward may be necessary to achieve a scheme of constituencies locally that better meets the ‘Rule 5’ statutory criteria
– urges the Boundary Commission for England to exercise its discretion to split the ward of Whittington & Streethay, keeping Streethay in the proposed Lichfield County Constituency, with Whittington moving to Tamworth County Constituency.”
As I have stated previously to the Commission, Streethay is regarded as an integral part of Lichfield. As Mr Frederick Booth said in his oral evidence, even official postal addresses in Streethay often exclude ‘Streethay’ and simply include the street name and ‘Lichfield’ (e.g. WS13 8LE in the centre of Streethay whose postal address is ‘Meadow Croft, Lichfield’. Source: Royal Mail postcode finder).
I understand that 4 years ago at the time of the last Boundary Review there were just 476 voters in Streethay. There are now 1,098.
I further understand that, consequently, it is now the intention of Lichfield District Council to argue that the Streethay Polling District AD become a ward in its own right. This is reflected in the submission by Lichfield District Council. If this happens, it is the intention of Lichfield City Council to include Streethay into the parish of the City of Lichfield: please see their submission to the Commission.
As I have argued previously, the A38 Dual Carriageway forms a natural boundary and avoids the “Streethay Notch” into the Lichfield constituency. By including the Streethay Polling District (AD) into Lichfield, this would virtually be achieved with one very minor exception (as one of the Commissioners helpfully showed me in Stafford).
I believe this proposal to include Streethay in Lichfield is more compliant with Rules 5 (1) c and d and I would ask that this one change be granted.