Monday, 31 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: Northumberland, Durham & Cleveland (the North East)

The North East England region is the smallest in terms of electorate and also by population size; it is also a very contrasting region with the densely populated, urbanised and well-connected Tyne & Wear Region in the middle and with the rural and remote county of Northumberland at its northern tip; Northumberland is the least densely populated county in the whole of England, with only 62 people per square kilometre living there according to the 2011 census.

This region also has proportionally the most constituencies to lose in England, with its seat entitlement decreasing from 29 to 25 (a loss of 14% of its current seats). It also has few small wards since there are no longer any small districts, making drawing new rural constituencies difficult. Even though the wards of the metropolitan constituencies are reasonably small, it is easy to get it wrong if you do not read the map correctly and work out (in Newcastle's case) where to put the practically unavoidable 'Tyne Bridge' seat. Also, no part of rural Northumberland should be in any Tyne & Wear constituency.

It is time in this region to hark back to older boundaries, before the Cleveland area was moved out of North Yorkshire and when the old county borders were respected, in order to create sensible constituencies. There is no need for a 'Stockton East & Middlesbrough West' seat, or any need to split Middlesbrough three ways.

Tyne & Wear is not easy to get right either, so a minimum change approach is useful even though only 3 constituencies can stay intact. The only issue is having a revived Tyne Bridge constituency, but this can be resolved by making sure it includes as little of Newcastle-upon-Tyne as is necessary and making sure it does not split communities.

The Boundary Commission's Northumberland plan is well thought out, but it needs some tweaking to get it right. I do not particularly favour ward-splitting any more than the BCE does, but unfortunately it is necessary to split one large rural ward to make sure each Northumberland constituency is entirely in Northumberland-this should be the large and sparse Rothbury division (only a small part of which contains the eponymous village).

My alternative constituencies for North East England are:

Wansbeck is abolished.
Houghton & Sunderland South is abolished.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central is abolished.
Stockton North is abolished.
Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland is abolished.
Middlesbrough West succeeds Middlesbrough in practice and is similar to the pre-1974 Middlesbrough West seat.
Stockton (-on-Tees) succeeds Stockton South and reunites the eponymous town.
Billingham & Sedgefield succeeds Sedgefield.
Consett succeeds North West Durham.
Chester-Le-Street & Houghton succeeds North Durham.
Easington & Sunderland South succeeds Easington.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne West succeeds Newcastle-upon-Tyne North; the name change reflects the reality of its compass point in relation to Newcastle.
Gateshead & Tyne Bridge succeeds Gateshead and is similar to the 1983-2010 constituency of Tyne Bridge, but with all of the town of Gateshead this time.
Berwick & Ashington succeeds Berwick-upon-Tweed. Of Rothbury ward it has all polling districts except for B91ELS, B96HOL, B102WT and B95HES, making its actual electorate 78,400.
Hexham & Morpeth succeeds Hexham and contains polling districts B91ELS, B96HOL, B102WT and B95HES of Rothbury ward, making its actual electorate 77,354.
Wallsend has the same boundaries as the current North Tyneside constituency; it reverts to its former name to reflect realities.
Tynemouth and Sunderland Central are both unchanged from their 2010 boundaries.
Middlesbrough East is a new seat and essentially restores the pre-1974 constituency of the same name.

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