Thursday, 6 October 2016

My alternative proposals: Cambridgeshire & Norfolk

The final part of the East Anglia section of my series of alternative proposals for new constituency boundaries to the initial proposals of the Boundary Commission for England, finishes at an area where a cross-county constituency is needed under the parameters the BCE must work with. The two urban constituencies of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge and Peterborough) are under-quota, but all the rest are at least 2000 voters over quota (and 11,452 over quota in North West Cambridgeshire's case!) The question is, where should it be?

The abandoned 2013 review placed it as 'Wisbech & Downham Market' and I was initially tempted to place it there, but I now know why the BCE was right not to create it for this review: Wisbech is poorly connected to Norfolk except via King's Lynn, and even then that would cause unnecessary disruption; it is on the other hand much better connected with the 'Isle of Ely' area, including the towns of Chatteris, March, and Whittlesey, and of course the city of Ely itself. Since the Isle of Ely contains too many electors for one constituency and too few for two constituencies (approx.101,000), part of it must cross into Norfolk. The Wisbech part (Wisbech was a parliamentary constituency from 1885 to 1918, and covered a similar area to the current North East Cambridgeshire) should remain entirely in Cambridgeshire for ease of connectivity and community links.

The BCE is on the right track with their Norfolk South West (and Littleport) proposal, but it needs to be expanded further to be workable, and Thetford, having no proper links with Downham Market and not even being in the same district as it, should be moved into a new constituency. Also, the North Norfolk area should be covered as much as possible by a North Norfolk constituency (it has a few thousand too many electors for one valid constituency) and none of it should be covered by any constituency largely based in the Breckland or Broadland districts.

The Huntingdonshire issue was a notable problem in creating revised Cambridgeshire constituencies; the Cambridgeshire-Huntingdonshire connection is much poorer than the Hereford & Worcester connection, except from the city of Peterborough. It is easier to reach the eastern half of Northamptonshire from Huntingdonshire, in fact. The size of the Huntingdonshire constituencies (89.959 for North West Cambridgeshire, which is really North Huntingdonshire and was in fact drawn to be entirely within the old county of Huntingdonshire, and 81,303 for Huntingdon), necessitated moving one small part of Huntingdonshire into a southern Cambridgeshire constituency. My attempts to move just Fenstanton and Gransden & The Offords yielded no success in creating in-quota constituencies due the ward sizes in the western and eastern parts of South Cambridgeshire, but moving the small town of St Ives into the area is a useful compromise. If the allowed deviation was 10% instead of 5% (as is allowed for local government boundary changes), this particular problem could have easily been avoided.

The BCE's initial proposal for Cambridge (to also include Milton, now effectively a suburb of the city), and expansions of Norwich North and Norwich South are based on sound thinking and reflect the fact that the current local government boundaries of the cities of Cambridge and Norwich are at least 10-20 years out of date in terms of reflecting what is really a part of the city and what is a separate village/town. However, it is not fully clarified how much the 'Greater Cambridge' area covers, and there are not enough electors in it for two constituencies and too many for one. Nor I have been able to find a solution which can include every Norwich suburb in two in-quota Norwich constituencies, particularly due to the ward sizes of the city of Norwich. I therefore believe that the current Norwich constituencies should merely be expanded to cover more suburbs of the built-up area, and since the city of Cambridge has enough electors for one in quota constituency, Cambridge should only gain the orphan Queen Edith's ward.

I therefore believe the new boundaries for Cambridgeshire and Norfolk should look like this:

Ramsey succeeds North West Cambridgeshire.
Huntingdon & St Neots succeeds Huntingdon.
South West Cambridgeshire & St Ives succeeds South Cambridgeshire.
Wisbech succeeds North East Cambridgeshire.
Ely & Downham Market succeeds South West Norfolk despite the Norfolk part containing only 60% of that constituency's electorate.
King's Lynn succeeds North West Norfolk.
Thetford & Wymondham succeeds Mid Norfolk in practice despite really being in the south of Norfolk. It is in a way a new seat.
Dereham succeeds Broadland despite a large proportion (44%) of the current Mid Norfolk's electorate being in it.
South East Norfolk succeeds South Norfolk.

The next section of my alternative constituency proposals for the 2018 boundary review will focus on the East Midlands, a key election battleground.

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