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Proposed boundary changes: submission to Boundary Commissioners from Canterbury Labour Party

We are most concerned about the current Boundary Review. It is based on out of date and flawed data and will therefore lead to flawed conclusions. It will shift power and influence away from areas with younger, more mobile populations to areas with older, settled home owners. It will clearly serve the electoral interests of one party only, but not the interests of democrats who believe in fair representation between young and old, renters and home owners, the more mobile and more settled.

The current Boundary Review is the most radical for over 60 years, in large part because of the reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This reduction was announced by the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in July 2011. The Boundary Review is based on the December 2015 electoral register, the first since the controversially accelerated arrangements for Individual Electoral Registration. The electoral register in Canterbury District showed a loss of around 12,000 voters following the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration.

The Boundary Commission is required by Government to use the December 2015 register even though more complete information is to hand following the registration of thousands of additional voters before the EU referendum. The Electoral Commission estimates that overall the registers increased by 4 or 5% between December 2015 and June 2016. This increase did not happen uniformly across demographic groups. Those groups registering later were likely to be younger, more mobile and more often in rented accommodation.

Canterbury demonstrates starkly this national trend identified by the Electoral Commission. Between December 2015 and the EU referendum an additional 2,786 voters registered in the Canterbury and Whitstable constituency according to figures provided by the City Council. This is an increase of around 4%, in line with the Electoral Commission’s estimate, but barely making up the losses following Individual Voter Registration. A breakdown by ward shows that those wards with the biggest concentrations of rented accommodation and young people showed the biggest increases in registered voters, for example Blean Forest increased from 4,183 to 5,806 (+38.8%) voters, St Stephens from 4,571 to 5,647 (+23.5%), and Westgate from 4,809 to 5,444 (+13.2%). Further analysis of data provided by the City Council shows that the difference between all voters and parliamentary voters on the register is sufficiently small (ranging from 3.9% to 7.4% in these three wards) that it does not negate the parliamentary implications of these very large increases on the overall register.

The representation of Canterbury’s interests at Westminster will be diluted because the Boundary Commission is being required to ignore the existence of thousands of local voters. Canterbury will be uniquely severely hit because we ‘lost’ more voters than any other constituency in the UK. Canterbury is at ‘the sharp end’ of a trend described by the Electoral Reform Society:

This will mean areas where people move on a regular basis, for instance those with a high concentration of certain demographics – students, private renters and especially young adults, and therefore have lower rates of registration, will be under represented in parliament.

By using such flawed data, the next Boundary Review is more likely to have to make radical changes in future, causing huge amounts of unnecessary upheaval and expense for Local Government. The Electoral Commission has recommended to Government that it stop using the December registers as a basis for research and statistics as they are so misleading. Reliance on the December 2015 register as the baseline clearly leads to a flawed process which diminishes the electoral influence of University constituencies like ours.

Although the local Labour Party recognises that the basis for a Boundary Review of constituencies can only be changed by Government through an Act of Parliament our submission emphasises that if you feed in faulty data you cannot but come out with faulty conclusions.

Yours sincerely,

Pete Smith,

Convenor, Voter Registration Working Group,

Canterbury Constituency Labour Party

Mike Bland,

Campaign Coordinator,

Canterbury Constituency Labour Party

Canterbury Constituency Labour Party, 12 Belmont Road, Whitstable, CT5 1QP