Ward changes could see Fenland lose a councillor

Proposal 2
Proposal 2
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CHANGES to ward boundaries across Fenland are up for discussion tomorrow by all members of the district council.

Two draft proposals are being put forward with both options including the loss of one councillor, which will mean the council dropping from 40 to 39 members.

Proposal 1

Proposal 1

At a special press briefing on Tuesday Council Leader Alan Melton, his deputy Chris Seaton, together with opposition members Virginia Bucknor and Mark Archer outlined the proposals and explained why they have come about.

They also emphasised there was cross party support for the changes although there was a lack of consensus in a ‘couple of areas’ which is why two options are up for discussion by tomorrow’s full council meeting.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England triggered a review for Fenland, which is completely independent of the national parliamentary constituency review, because of a large variance between the size of wards across Fenland district.

Nine of the current 27 wards are more than 10 per cent larger or smaller than the average and one, Kingsmoor at Whittlesey, was 34 per cent smaller.

MFCP existing wards

MFCP existing wards

The Boundary Commission wants to see the variance reduced to no more than 10 per cent so that every councillor represents an average of 1,850 voters.

Mr Seaton explained the review had to meet other criteria set by the Boundary Commission including the ability of electors to move around a ward easily and also keep communities together giving people a sense of identity.

A cross party member working group was set up to tackle the issue with member focus groups joining in to ensure local knowledge and experience was used in devising the new scheme.

As part of the drive to meet the community identity element of the commission’s criteria there will also be some name changes.

Waterlees will become Waterlees Village and Mrs Bucknor who represents the ward explained the aim is to give a feeling of identity and focus.

She said the area has natural boundaries with Mount Pleasant and Lynn Road which led to the idea of calling it Waterlees Village.

The Wisbech Hill ward will be renamed Octavia Hill.

Mark Archer, who represents Manea, said: “We have tried to bring more cohesion to wards by clearing up some of the anomalies caused by the last review.

“As a result part of the Chatteris Bird ward will move to Manea ward.”

There are options for Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary as to whether this should be two single member wards or remaind a dual member ward.

Similarly there is a choice between joining Doddington and Wimblington or keeping them as separate wards.

The review found that two of Whittlesey’s six wards were more than 30 per cent smaller than average, two were over 13 per cent smaller, one was 13 per cent larger and the remaining one was within the accepted 10 per cent range.

Consequently the new proposals have seen the Bassenhally ward disappear completely with part of it being moved into the Benwick, Coates and Eatrea ward.

The other wards will be amalgamated to form five new Whittlesey wards.

Tomorrow’s meeting will choose one of the two proposals and that will go to the Boundary Commission for them to consider.

Mr Melton explained the council could have opted to increase the number of councillors by one rather than lose one but the way the boundaries fell made the reduction the sensible option.

He said the Commission could choose to adopt Fenland’s scheme, come up with their own alternative or adopt a suggestion put forward by an individual.

The Boundary Commission will run a 12-week public consultation from September to December for people to have their say on the chosen scheme and a final decision will be made early in the new year.

Changes will come into force from the local elections of 2015.