Sedgemoor boundary changes criticised

PUBLISHED: 11:00 05 November 2010

New council boundary changes have proven controversial

New council boundary changes have proven controversial

Archant

PLANS to divide up Sedgemoor District Council's electoral wards have been attacked by councillors, who have described them as 'damaging to democracy' and confusing for voters.

The Local Government Boundary Commission published its proposed plans last week as the council aims to change wards to reflect population changes in some areas.

There are set to be 23 new wards created as part of the plans, which are set to come into force ahead of May’s council elections, subject to approval from Parliament.

A total of 22 councillors are set to represent the nine new wards of Berrow, Knoll, Huntspill and Pawlett, Axevale, Cheddar and Shipham, Wedmore and Mark, Quantocks, Highbridge and Burnham Marine, Burnham Central and Burnham North.

As part of the changes the Brent Knoll ward has been divided up into smaller areas, while the Alstone area of Highbridge will be removed from Huntspill and added to the new Highbridge and Burnham Marine ward.

But while the commission says the changes, which have split up certain existing wards, will represent shifts in the area’s population better, councillors say they are flying in the face of advice they gave to the LGBC earlier this year.

Councillor Joe Leach, who represents the Highbridge ward said: “The commission came to us as part of the consultation process and we made suggestions, but when they came back they’d basically rejected our proposals.

“They’ve really made a mess out of it and it’s all because they have done it by numbers, trying to even up numbers without regard to long-held boundaries. I think this will be damaging for democracy in Sedgemoor.”

Councillor Bob Filmer, who is seeing his Knoll ward carved up into three separate parts, said: “My ward, which currently has seven parish councillors and myself as a district councillor, will be represented by eight district councillors when these changes go ahead.

“The people from the commission said they were very keen to change the boundaries in a way that voters would better know who represented them and so they could more easily be held to account.

“But instead they’ve just looked at matching up the numbers so every ward is evenly represented, without regard to the community boundaries which people know, which is bound to confuse some people.

“For example, East Huntspill will now be separated from West Huntspill, and the people from both of them have a lot to do with each other.”

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