MPs weigh in on constituency boundary changes set for 2023
- Credit: Archant
The political landscape across North Somerset and Somerset could change drastically ahead of the next general election.
The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) published its initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituencies across the country in June, which would come into force before the next UK general election.
The number of seats in the House of Commons will remain at 650 as part of the plans, but the number of constituencies in England is set to increase from 533 to 543.
The new boundaries aim to make representation across each consistency more equal, with each of the new seats having a population of between 69,724 and 77,062 people.
The BCE has now launched a public consultation to gauge feedback on the plans. Its final recommendations will be presented to Parliament by July 2023.
Tim Bowden, secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, said: “The proposals mark the first-time people get to see what the new map of Parliamentary constituencies might look like, but they are just the commission’s initial thoughts.
“Each constituency we recommend is required by law to contain between 69,724 and 77,062 electors, meaning there will be significant change to the current boundaries. We want to hear the views of the public to ensure that we get the new boundaries for Parliamentary constituencies right - help us draw the line to make the number of electors in each Parliamentary constituency more equal."
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The biggest changes to face North Somerset include Kenn, Kingston Seymour, Claverham, Yatton, Congresbury, Hewish, Churchill, Banwell and Winscombe looking set to fall under the proposed new Wells and Mendip Hills constituency, not in North Somerset and Weston-super-Mare.
MP for North Somerset, Dr Liam Fox, said North Somerset is now 'too big' for just two MPs, but too small for three, adding that his constituency is the ‘least changed in the region’.
Weston MP John Penrose also echoed Dr Fox’s sentiment that North Somerset constituencies have grown too big, which means each resident’s vote weighs less than someone who lives in a smaller constituency.
He added: “These proposals are only a first draft, so they could still change quite a bit. But our boundaries need to change because both North Somerset constituencies have grown too big, which means each local resident’s vote weighs less than someone who lives in a smaller constituency where it takes fewer people to elect an MP.
“That’s not fair and so, whatever the final decision on our boundaries turns out to be, the new version ought to mean the system is fairer in the future than it was in the past.”
The area covered by Somerset County Council is currently divided into five constituencies – Bridgwater and West Somerset, Somerton and Frome, Taunton Deane, Wells and Yeovil.
Under the new proposals, these boundaries will be redrawn with new seats being created – with some of the new seats including parishes from neighbouring counties.
In the proposals, the new Wells constituency bears little resemblance to the current one. While it still includes Axbridge, Cheddar, Shepton Mallet and Wells itself, the new constituency loses the coastal towns of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge to the new Bridgwater seat.
The new constituency also includes Yatton and other settlements which currently form the eastern part of the Weston-super-Mare.
James Heappey, who has held the Wells seat since 2015, said: “Most importantly, the redrawing of constituency boundaries will level up the size of constituencies across the United Kingdom and address the democratic deficit.
“In that respect, it is great news that Somerset gains two additional voices in Westminster. The next step is to look carefully at the Boundary Commission’s recommendations to make sure that they work for local communities.”
In early 2022, the BCE will publish feedback on the initial proposals, before conducting a six-week secondary consultation, including holding a number of public hearings across the country.
After the publication of the revised proposals in the autumn of 2022, the commission will then conduct a four-week written consultation and invite the public to respond to these proposals.
The public consultation on the commission's proposals to change constituency boundaries in England is scheduled to end on August 2.
To comment on the plans, log-on to www.bcereviews.org.uk