Halt Proposed Changes to Birmingham's Ward Boundaries
We, the undersigned, ask you, as Chair of Birmingham Improvement Panel, to use your position to intercede with the Boundary Commission to address concerns with the process to develop new wards for Birmingham.
We specifically ask that you request the Boundary Commission to reevaluate their published timescale to announce new ward patterns. Given the level of public disquiet that has resulted from the draft proposals, we do not feel that a deadline of May 2016 to announce new wards is in any way realistic.
We also ask that you request that the Boundary Commission reconsiders its methodology for designing new wards.
The recent report from the Boundary Commission states that three objectives underpin the process: -
- Improve electoral equality by equalising the number of electors each councillor represents
- Reflect community identity
- Provide for effective and convenient local government
We maintain that little, if any, consideration has been given to the last two points.
In the Birmingham Draft Recommendations report the Boundary Commission sets out the responses received from community groups across the City setting out plans for proposed wards. A comparison of community responses and proposed wards indicates that local knowledge has been largely disregarded in modelling future wards.
We feel that the Boundary Commission should produce a transparent outline of how it will engage with local communities rather than relying on a remote desktop analysis. Equally it should consider the implications of running significant public consultations over the Christmas period.
Whilst we appreciate that wards balanced by population size are important, as is the total number of Councillors, we do not think these should be the primary considerations. Community identity is a crucial element of creating municipal governance in which people will actively participate.
The Kerslake report highlighted many reasons why there is a perceived disconnect between municipal authority and the communities it purports to represent. The growth of an active and engaged civic society in Birmingham is a testament to how communities have sought to address the gaps where the Council has not been capable of supporting residents.
We feel that it would be a great shame, and a lost opportunity, if the lasting legacy of the Kerslake report was to undermine those very communities that have previously found little support from the local authority.
- Birmingham Improvement Panel
John Crabtree (Chair Birmingham Improvement Panel)
- Local Government Boundary Commission
Local Government Boundary Commission
- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Greg Clark MP
Halt changes to Birmingham's ward boundarys
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