Boundary blues (and reds and yellows)

First an apology: this isn’t strictly about Kilburn, but our neighbouring wards in Camden West Hampstead and Fortune Green.  However, I wanted to post this somewhere, and figured I’d could give myself a little latitude.

Since the Boundary Commission published its proposals for Hampstead & Kilburn a couple of months ago, everyone in NW6 (at least on the Camden side) has been commenting on the daftness of hiving off Fortune Green to the Finchley & Golders Green parliamentary constituency.  West Hampstead and Fortune Green have so much in common, and share so many amenities, features and services that it feels quite surreal that people living one side of Mill Lane could have one MP, and those on the other side another.

Uncharacteristically, all three political parties in the borough agreed quite easily at a working group and then the formal Audit & Corporate Governance Committee (I attended both) to a submission to Camden which objected to this (and other parts of the proposals, especially those for wards in the south of the borough).

Today’s the last day to make a comment or objection to the Boundary Commission – you can do so here, and I would advise anyone who hasn’t done so already to lob something in

Without endorsing their plans, I have some sympathy for the Commission.  They’ve been asked to do an extremely random, if not impossible task – and at a breakneck pace.  Remember that the new boundaries which came in at the 2010 election were agreed in 2000-01!  These have to be signed off by 2013 at the latest – and this is a national exercise.

Here comes the political bit.  If you take an arbitrary number of parliamentary seats, and ask the Commission to ensure that each seat contains an equal number of voters (give or take a small tolerance), you will get some really stupid outcomes.  The thing is, the Commission – under the law that Conservative and Lib Dem government pushed through – expressly can’t prioritise notions of community or identity above the relentless logic of the numbers.  Opposition parites in Parliament said this would happen and, hey presto…

Anyhoo, I’ve posted my statement in full below (in case anyone is interested!):

 

Cllr Mike Katz (Lab – Kilburn, Camden LBC)

Comments on Boundary commission’s proposals with respect to Hampstead & Kilburn parliamentary constituency

 

  1. I am writing as a ward councillor for Kilburn in the London Borough of Camden, as well as a resident in West Hampstead for more than 10 years, to object to the separation of West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards in the Commission’s proposals for Hampstead & Kilburn and Finchley & Golders Green respectively.

  2. My comments echo the submission made to the Commission by the London Borough of Camden.  For sake of clarity, this was agreed by the council’s Audit & Corporate Governance committee[1], of which I am a member, and was informed by a meeting of the Elections and Citizenship Working Party on 10th October which I attended.  I should add that this submission is made on a personal basis, and is without prejudice to any submissions by the main national and London political parties. It is noteworthy, I believe that at both meetings, the proposals were agreed consensually by all three political groups.

  3. Having been present at the parliamentary election count for Hampstead & Kilburn in May 2010, I would endorse the views presented by Camden’s submission about the confusion and risk in marrying up the electoral arrangements and practices of two boroughs.

  4. However, my main concern is about the cohesiveness and common understanding of electoral units, at a time when turnout and public engagement in the electoral process is not as strong as we would wish it to be, a symptom common to many inner-city seats.  It seems logical that voter registration, participation, and understanding of electoral units are all mutually reinforcing.  For that reason, I am happy (notwithstanding my comments at 3) to continue the arrangements introduced at the last election which sees the two Kilburn wards in Brent and Camden represented in the same parliamentary seat.  I know as a ward councillor that the boundary of the Kilburn High Road is solely an administrative one and there is a clear sense of community across both boroughs in the area.

  5. It is for that selfsame reason that I expressly oppose the separation of West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards in your proposals, as both a councillor for the wider area and as a resident.

  6. The boundary between the two wards is wholly artificial.  A length of the boundary is Mill Lane, a local shopping centre which – like the Kilburn High Road – serves to unite residents either side of it, not serve as a boundary.

  7. The two wards are considered as one unit by all political parties (as far as I am aware, it is certainly the case for Labour) and also by public bodies.  Since the introduction of Area Forums in 2006 (changed to Area Action Groups in 2010), the two wards have had a single meeting; and the local police Safer Neighbourhood Teams share a single office close to West Hampstead tube.  The two wards share local amenities such as West End Lane shopping facilities, West End Green (in FG, but regarded as part of WH), the Library and the area’s three stations.

  8. Fortune Green is socially, historically, culturally and in terms of infrastructure, linked to West Hampstead and the London Borough of Camden (prior to that the Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead).  There is little, if any, connection with the London Borough of Barnet, for any but the most northerly residents.

  9. I have already experience concern and confusion from residents and local public service providers about the counter-intuitive impact of this proposal.  For instance, I had to allay concerns expressed by a head teacher that the Commission proposals would mean her school (which is in Fortune Green) would move under the control of Barnet LEA from Camden.

  10. Finally it is worth noting, as the Camden submission refers, that the London Borough of Barnet has sufficient population to make three parliamentary seats entirely within its own boundaries.  It would seem no less harmful – indeed, more to the public benefit – were a large ward such as Child’s Hill to be split between two  Barnet constituencies, rather than have Fortune Green tacked onto an otherwise wholly Barnet seat as an orphan ward, and separated from its natural neighbour in Camden, West Hampstead.

[ends]

 

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Comments

  • Nick Ingram  On 6 December 2011 at 2:50 pm

    The whole problem with the Tory redrawing (or re-redrawing) of boundaries is their intention is to create areas with equal numbers of voters when they disenfranchise so many (mostly urban) residents. In London we have many people who do not have the right to register to vote, because they have foreign nationality, even though they reside here full-time and pay UK taxes. We also have large numbers who are entitled to vote but for whom Cameron wants it to be as hard as possible to register.
    Isn’t one of the fundamentals in the US: “No taxation without representation?” The Tories are only keen on getting representation for those who manage to avoid taxation…