The Marlborough area is set to lose one division (and one Wiltshire Councillor) as a result of the Boundary Commission’s redrawing of the divisions across Wiltshire, the maps above show the current and proposed boundaries. This in spite of the representations made following an extraordinary meeting of the Town Council on 22 October last year.
The concerns expressed then appear to have fallen on deaf ears and the current proposals remain unchanged – save for the renaming of ‘Ramsbury’ to the original name of ‘Aldbourne & Ramsbury’. Whilst no final decisions have yet been made, a consultation is still in progress (click here to access the consultation submission entry page on the Local Government Boundary Commission website, this will be open until 15 April) but the lack of any consideration to the earlier representation does not instil much optimism.
Wiltshire Council requested that the number of divisions across the whole County be increased from 98 to 99 due to population growth. The Boundary Commission rejected this and then conducted a review which confirmed that there would only be 98 councillors representing Wiltshire residents going forward, and whilst the extra one could be added elsewhere it would be the Marlborough area that lost one, as all of the four divisions are too small (as detailed in the previous report accessed above).
What does this mean in practice? Reduced democratic representation for both the town of Marlborough and for the surrounding villages as well. An undesirable mix of urban / rural area for the two Marlborough divisions, particularly so for Marlborough West. And possible problems for the constitution of the Area Board, as each meeting requires that three County Councillors are present for the Board to be quorate, and if this wasn’t consistently possible there would be the scenario where Councillors from other areas could be drafted in to substitute, or that the Marlborough Area Board be then merged with another area, with the subsequent loss of opportunity for all the organisations who rely on the Area Board for grant aid.
In summary – all downside, with no benefit to anyone in this area.
Councillor Loosemore issued a plea to all residents to get involved and protest against what is being proposed, and to express their concerns and objections in the consultation (link above).
“It is apparent that one of the biggest issues is mixing of urban rural areas – not just Marlborough but other areas or Wiltshire as well” stated Deputy Mayor Councillor Mervyn Hall. ”Issues to do with farming and the countryside are very different to the issues we normally see around this table for example. The two don’t really mix very well.” he added.
As noted in last October’s report it’s all down to numbers. Each of the four current divisions are too small, but cutting one out makes the divisions too large, and as Councillor Forbes pointed out that in terms of numbers of ekectors they would be +8, +9 and +10% above the norm for all other divisions across the County (but just within the upper limit of variance which stands at 10%), therefore the Marlborough area would have as little per elector as is possible to have in the review. “Marlborough is getting the short straw”…”I don’t think we should accept this as a Council” he said.
He also explained that Marlborough West would still be within it’s acceptable size criteria if the villages of Avebury and beyond were taken out of this proposed division. This would make Marlborough West area more manageable but still with the undesirable issue of urban / rural split.
“I do despair in these situations, it is a dialogue of the deaf'” stated Town and Wiltshire Councillor Fogg. “Parliamentary constituencies are based on local communities” he added. ”I can’t understand why these idiots don’t seem to recognise the viability of local communities. All we can do is protest.”
“Whilst (the proposed) Marlborough East is just about OK, Marlborough West goes for about ten miles nearly to Wootton Bassett, and the community between Marlborough and Broad Town is entirely different to that of Marlborough”…”It is ridiculous” pointed out Councillor Guy Loosemore. ”It doesn’t help the efficient running of this area if we have this very dogmatic, poorly thought out structure imposed upon us, it is about central government trying to control agendas at local levels”…”We must oppose this.” he vehemently stated.
Councillor Forbes proposed that “We will respond to this consultation, objecting in the strongest terms, both to the urban / rural split and to the fact that we have such a high variance for each of the three seats, and thus it’s not even necessary.”
This went to vote to near-unanimous support.