West Midlands set to lose six MPs under plans to redraw electoral map
The West Midlands will lose six of its 59 MPs under Boundary Commission plans to redraw the electoral map of Britain.
Controversial proposals first aired in 2013, but dropped by the coalition Government after the Liberal Democrats refused to back the changes, are to be revisited in time for the 2020 General Election.
While the Boundary Commission is starting with a fresh piece of paper, the body has already worked out that the West Midlands must lose six constituencies based on the latest figures for the number of registered voters in the region.
The commission is proposing that no constituency can have more than 78,507 voters or fewer than 71,031.
Data modelling exercises suggest the shake-up will hit Labour the hardest, with the party set to lose 24 of the Commons seats that are set to disappear, while the Conservatives will suffer only 14 losses – a net gain of ten MPs for the Tories.
Labour strongholds in big cities like Birmingham and deprived areas have been hit by a fall in the number of people registered to vote following a Government decision to scrap the system where heads of households were able to register the names of everyone living under one roof.
The introduction of individual voter registration to clamp down on electoral fraud has resulted in a 600,000 reduction in the total number of registered electors across the country. University cities with large numbers of students have been particularly badly hit.
Initial proposals will be published by the Boundary Commission in September, firing the starting gun for two years of bitter argument by politicians before the Government takes a final decision.
Under the commission’s rules, the West Midlands includes Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Herefordshire as well as Birmingham, the Black Country, Solihull and Coventry.
In 2013 the Boundary Commission proposed reducing the number of Birmingham MPs from ten to nine, opening the possibility of a battle between the Labour MPs for Ladywood and Hodge Hill, Shabana Mahmood and Liam Byrne, fighting for the right to stand in a single re-drawn constituency.
There were also proposals that some West Midlands parliamentary constituencies should cross local council borders. Sheldon, a Liberal Democrat stronghold to the east of Birmingham, would have been transferred into Conservative-held Solihull, making the seat more marginal.
In west Birmingham, it was proposed Soho ward be transferred into the Black Country seat of Smethwick, while Old Warley in the Black Country was due to become part of a new Birmingham constituency to be called Harborne.
Under the proposals for 2020 England will have 501 constituencies, 32 fewer than there are currently.
The Boundary Commission will publish its proposals in September and there will be a three-month consultation period for public comments.
The commission will make its final recommendations to Parliament in 2018.
Sam Hartley, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England said:
Today marks the start of our work to review the constituency boundaries in England. Parliament has set us strict rules on reducing the number of constituencies and bringing greater equality of electorate size between the new constituencies. These new rules mean that there is likely to be a large degree of change across the country.
Once we publish our initial proposals in the autumn, we will need the help of residents in all regions to ensure that our proposals take account of local ties and best reflect the geography on the ground. Everyone’s views will help us recommend a well-considered and practical set of constituency boundaries in England.
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