Today councillors met with members of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, the first step in redrawing the ward boundaries for the council, set to take effect in 2019.
The review has been triggered by three wards being having a variance in population per member from the average of an extent deemed unacceptable by legislation. The wards being Pound Hill North (undersized), Three Bridges (oversized) and West Green (undersized). The review is triggered by current populations, but the review will be based on 2023 electorates. There is some irony to this as by 2023 Forge Wood and building in the Town Centre will have corrected much of this imbalance.
Still, a review it is and due to changes in approach it is likely to force a major (and to my mind undesirable) shift from the neighbourhoods. Why? Because we elect in thirds, the legislation now aims for Crawley to only be made up of three member wards.
In the first instance this means that the number of councillors will have to change, the current 37 not being divisible by three and it probably isn’t desirable for there to be 36 members since given our history of close results here there’s a real chance of a draw.
More significantly through, a neighbourhood the size of West Green is simply too to be a viable three member seat without dividing up most of the other neighbourhoods into several seats and creating many additional councillors. Even taking West Green out out of the equation, you can’t maintain most of the neighbourhoods while trying to divide the town into 11, 12 or 13 equally sized wards.
It’s not a great situation in terms of the town’s traditional neighbourhood principle, but it’s a national requirement and a necessary part of ensuring equality of representation across the town. This is only the start of the process and there will be public consultation before the Commission makes their final decision, but it’s clear to me that whatever the decision a fair few noses will be put out of joint, irrespective of politics.