The Electoral Commission has been undertaking a review of the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies to take effect at the next General Election. The review is taking into account the Government’s policy of reducing the number of MPs in the House of Commons from the present 650 to 600 and in so doing reducing the cost of Government. The review will also ensure fairer representation by reducing the differences in the size of electorates which currently heavily favours the Labour party who tend to have more small constituencies in cities, and also Scotland and Wales. The proposed cut in constituency number will impact heavily impact on Wales which is set to lose a quarter of its seats, falling from 40 to 30 following the establishment of the Welsh Assembly. All new constituencies should have around 76,500 electors +/-5%.
Previous rules which prevented constituencies crossing County boundaries have been scrapped meaning that some radically new constituencies may be created. The Commission’s initial report has now entered the public domain with its detailed recommendations for England. I was not expecting much change in Reading due to both constituencies being close to the target size but it was always possible that changes elsewhere could have an unexpected knock on effect.
The Electoral Commission proposes the following for Berkshire:
“30. There are currently eight constituencies in this county. We are proposing no change to the number of constituencies. Of the existing constituencies, six have electorates within 5% of the electoral quota. Of the remaining two constituencies, Slough is above the 5% limit and Windsor is below it.
31. We propose to keep unaltered all six constituencies that are within the 5% electoral quota (Bracknell, Maidenhead, Newbury, Reading East, Reading West, and Wokingham).
32. In order to reduce the large electorate of the Slough constituency and to increase the electorate of the neighbouring Windsor constituency, we propose to transfer the Foxborough ward of the Borough of Slough to our proposed Windsor constituency. We note that the neighbouring ward of the Borough of Slough, Colnbrook with Poyle, is already in the existing Windsor constituency. Apart from this one alteration, we propose no further changes.”
Nationally only 77 constituencies remain unchanged and six of them are in Berkshire! There is still a long way to go before the proposals become law and they will probably face some stiff resistance from the Labour party along the way but for the Berkshire MPs this can only be good news.