New Boundaries for Cornwall Council elections
On 4th December the Local Government Boundary Commission published its final recommendations for the boundaries for electoral divisions in Cornwall. The changes will take effect at the next elections for Cornwall Council scheduled for May 2021. The revision to the boundaries follows the decision in September 2017 to reduce the number of Councillors elected to Cornwall Council from 123 to 87. So across the county we will see fewer councillors with larger areas to represent.
One of the reasons for the boundary review has been to try to make divisions closer in size, in terms of the number of electors who live in each area. The Commission has used estimates of voters that will be living in Cornwall in 2023, looking at the growth in our population over the next five years, and the result is an average of 5,163 per division. However, it is debatable how successful this process has been. Among the biggest divisions in the County under the new arrangement will be Newquay Pentire at an estimated 5,836 voters and St Dennis & St Enoder at 5,715, in contrast to the Councillor representing Penwithick & Boscoppa who will serve an estimated 4,648 voters. Don’t forget that there are more people living an area than just the registered voters, and on current population numbers, each Councillor represents about 4,500 people and so with fewer Councillors this will increase to over 6,300 people, a bigger burden and larger workload.
What does this mean in the St Austell and Newquay constituency area? The boundaries of the constituency don’t exactly match the boundaries of the Parish and Town Councils, and currently there are 26 Electoral Divisions that cover the constituency each electing one Cornwall Council member. After the changes this number will reduce to 18, a loss of 8 Councillors. It is also worth noting that a number of divisions cross the constituency boundaries, so for instance the new Roseland division covers a large area in the Truro & Falmouth constituency, but also includes Gorran and Caerhays.
Both the two major towns see a reduction in Councillors, with the main town areas both being represented by just three members. South and East of St Austell a long, thin division has been created around coast and the bay stretching from Mevagissey, around Charlestown and Carlyon Bay and up to Tregrehan; this creates a very diverse area with 4 parish councils in the area, so whoever wins the seat will be very busy attending meetings.
Changes for Towns and Parish Councils
The boundary changes will also have an impact on how members of St Austell and Newquay Town Councils and several Parish Councils in the Constituency are elected. While the numbers of Town and Parish Councillors will stay the same under this review, they will be grouped into larger areas. So in St Austell with 20 councillors, they will be drawn from 3 parish wards (down from 5 wards): Bethel & Holmbush (7 members); Central & Gover (7) & Poltair & Mount Charles (6).
In Newquay, its 20 Councillors will be drawn from 4 parish wards (down from 7 wards): Central & Pentire (6); Porth & Tretherras (5); Trenance (6); and Whipsiderry (3)
Luxulyan, Treverbyn, St Stephen-in-Brannel and Pentewan Valley Parish Council will all have just 2 wards each.
Will all this make a difference? Most of the time, most people are not aware of who their local councillor is, and perhaps don’t need to know. But when individuals need help or want to access Council services, fewer councillors with larger workloads will make a difference to the level of service that’s available. It will also effect who wants to stand for election, as again serving a bigger area may put some people off standing, and make it harder for some candidates to get leaflets distributed and reach out to their voters. When voters complain they never see candidates, bigger areas to represent means the distance between councillors and the people they serve is wider, which can’t be good for democracy. Since the move to an all Cornwall Unitary authority we have seen a big reduction in the numbers of Councillors working for their communities and this trend is continued under this review. It makes it harder for new candidates to break into the decision making bodies that affect so much of how Cornwall works and it limits the expression of democracy in Cornwall – not a good move.
Vice Chair of St Austell & Newquay Labour
St Austell Town Councillor for Mount Charles Ward
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party