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Have your say on new electoral divisions for Somerset

22nd August 2011

Have your say on new electoral divisions for Somerset

23rd August 2011

The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is asking local people for their input into a review of the electoral arrangements for Somerset County Council.

Earlier this month, the Commission proposed that the council should have 55 councillors in future, three fewer than at present. The LGBCE now needs information from people and groups across Somerset to help it to decide out a new pattern of electoral divisions for the county.

The Commission is carrying out the review to deliver electoral equality for voters in county council elections and make sure each county councillor represents approximately the same number of people. The review will also aim to ensure that the new pattern of electoral divisions reflects local communities across Somerset.

Max Caller, Chair of the Commission, said: “Having fair electoral boundaries is important for local democracy.

“The purpose of our review is to try to ensure that each councillor represents around the same number of people so that every elector’s vote is worth the same at local election time. That’s not the case at the moment for Somerset. Ilchester division, for example, has 40% more electors per councillor than the average in Somerset.

“Through development and the natural movement of people, some divisions have become much larger than others. It’s the same in many local authorities throughout England which is why we are currently conducting electoral reviews of 19 county councils, boroughs and districts across the country.

The situation means that the value of your vote varies depending on where you live in Somerset. Our review aims to correct that situation.

“As we draw up new division boundaries, we’ll look to take into account local community identities as well as ensuring electoral equality. This is your chance to shape your council for the future.

“We are asking for information and evidence from people across Somerset that will help us understand where the new division boundaries should be drawn. First and foremost, we want to ensure that the pattern of divisions means that everyone’s vote in Somerset is of roughly equal value regardless of where they live. Our other major consideration is to ensure that electoraldivisions genuinely reflect local communities and the service and amenities they use. We’ll also be looking at the natural boundaries between communities.

“Your views will make a difference. After all, local people know Somerset best.

“We will carefully consider all evidence that is provided during this phase of the review whoever it is from and whether it applies to the whole county or just a small part of it.

“We will also publish all the submissions on our website so that local people can see all the various proposals we receive. Residents will then have a further chance to have their say after we publish our draft recommendations in February 2012.”

Local people have until 14 November to submit their views. Further information on electoral reviews and guidance on what sort of information the Commission is looking for is available on the LGBCE website at www.lgbce.org.uk .

ends

Notes to editors:

1. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is responsible for reviewing local authority electoral arrangements, defining boundaries for local elections and the number of councillors to be elected, as well as conducting reviews of local government external boundaries and structures.

2.The purpose of a review is to try to ensure that each councillor represents approximately the same number of people and that every elector’s vote is worth the same.

3.The types of questions the Commission is asking residents at this stage are:

  • Do you have suggestions about where your electoral division boundaries should be?
  • Which areas do you identify as your local community?
  • Where do people in your area go to access local facilities such as shops and leisure activities?

4. Residents have from 23 August to 14 November to have their say about where electoral division boundaries for Somerset’s 55 councillors should be drawn. The LGBCE will then publish its draft recommendations in February 2012 and open a further phase of consultation. New divisions are scheduled to come into effect at the 2013 county council elections.

5. The LGBCE’s decision on council size means it is ‘minded’ to recommend 55 county councillors for Somerset but is not legally bound by that number in its final recommendations and depending on the evidence submitted to it during consultation.

6. Members of the public can have their say on the new electoral arrangements by writing to:

The Review Officer (Somerset)
Layden House
76-86 Turnmill Street
London
EC1M 5LG

Or by emailing: reviews@lgbce.org.uk