Charlbury could move into Banbury Constituency

Christine Battersby
👍 1

Fri 18 Jun, 10:05

Just to remind or point out to people that we only have until August 2nd to give any first responses to the proposed constituency boundary changes.

The topic does not yet seem to be on the agenda for the new Town Council and there are only a couple of meetings before then, so those with views on the matter are probably best responding directly online or by letter. The electronic address is here https://www.bcereviews.org.uk/ But written representations are also possible.

The Commission says it value all responses but advises that if someone disagrees with the proposals, their response might be more useful if it proposes workable alternatives. 

I think I have been persuaded by Richard's argument (below) that we would be better to go with Bicester than stay with Banbury. Suggesting that Fringford and the Heyfords remain with Banbury is one possible way forward, given that the numbers seem OK. Also Fringford and the Heyfords are currently in the Cherwell District Council area, whereas we are not. Others might have better suggestions.

Christine Battersby
👍

Wed 9 Jun, 18:17

My figures for voter numbers are taken from the official pages on boundary reorganisation here: https://boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/2023-review/south-east/

Move down the page for the details on the different constituencies. No doubt they are out of date, but these are the figures that head the relevant pages for Witney, Banbury and Bicester, so are presumably the ones that matter. 

Michael Flanagan
👍 1

Wed 9 Jun, 17:18

There were 83,000 registered voters in Witney constituency as of the May 2021 election. Other numbers may refer to other universes (like - possibly - "over 18 residents in the 2011 census") and I must confess I'm not altogether sure what data the EC is meant to be looking at.

Certainly the one group of other small settlements Charlbury is closest to culturally (and I say this without trying to be intellectually snooty) are Woodstock and Eynsham: we're a rural suburb of/retirement destination for Oxford. It'd be nice moving with them to the same constituency - and I hadn't twigged that Eynsham's moving to Bicester like Woodstock.  

Maybe that's what we should be lobbying for

Christine Battersby
👍 1

Wed 9 Jun, 11:25 (last edited on Wed 9 Jun, 11:30)

Unless my figures are wrong, Bicester does have space for Charlbury. Its listed electorate is 70389, and Charlbury and Finstock is 3075.

I read that the goal is to try to make every constituency within 5% either way of the average number of electors, just under 73,400,

That leaves Banbury short, however, since that was already the smallest of the 3 constituencies, at 69943. But I really would not be surprised if some of the areas that have been moved from Banbury to Bicester would decide to object -- e.g. Fringford and the Heyfords (electorate 6927).

I do take Richard's point about shared interests with other councils that are now allocated to Bicester, and their links to Oxford -- and probably I should disregard the question of who would stand to become our MP.  

Richard Fairhurst
(site admin)
👍 3

Wed 9 Jun, 10:24

On balance (choice of MP notwithstanding) I wonder if we might be better off in Bicester than Banbury.

We don’t have much in common with either Bicester or Banbury itself, but the proposed Bicester constituency includes a whole swathe of “influenced by Oxford” towns/villages, like us. An MP who has to pay attention to places like Woodstock, Eynsham, and Hanborough will be more in tune with Charlbury than one whose focus is Banbury’s satellite villages (Adderbury, Deddington, Bloxham) and the vast swathes of rural Cherwell.

But how you do that while remaining within the Boundary Commission’s constituency size is… tricky.

Christine Battersby
👍

Wed 9 Jun, 09:32 (last edited on Wed 9 Jun, 09:43)

But might Robert Courts want to move to over to Bicester CC, given that Bladon will be in the Bicester Parliamentary constituency? 

Michael, I am not sure where you get you population figure for Witney from? Online the electorate is listed as 72938. Yes, it's growing, but so also are the other areas.

Having said this, I would worry that if we objected to the proposals to move from Witney to Banbury, we might end up in Bicester (like Stonesfield and Woodstock), and might find that Robert Courts had also decided to make that move.

As far as I can see Victoria Prentis's farm remains in the Banbury area -- unless she lives somewhere other than at the listed address.

Michael Flanagan
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Wed 9 Jun, 09:31 (last edited on Wed 9 Jun, 09:32)

There's no escaping the basic maths of all this, though. Witney constituency (pop 83k and growing) is already14% bigger than the quota (73k) the legislation requires. And I'd suggest the "dissident" Woodstock-Charlbury-Chippy belt leans less culturally to Witney than most of the rest of the constituency.

There's no room for Woodstock and Charlbury in an Oxford City constituency, and Chippy rather ploughs its own furrow culturally anyway. We're the easiest to hive off, and we'd almost certainly lose any attempt to argue against the principle of making the constituency smaller.

If the Town Council - or an ad hoc group - wanted to campaign against these proposals, the process does allow consultations. But we'd need a viable alternative for the 10,000 different people to shrink Witney seat down. 

Richard Fairhurst
(site admin)
👍

Wed 9 Jun, 08:48

I guess it’s not 100% guaranteed that Victoria Prentis would stay with the Banbury seat – she could choose to jump ship to the Bicester half of her former constituency. Her home is pretty much on the boundary between the two, I believe.

Steve Jones
👍 2

Tue 8 Jun, 19:36 (last edited on Wed 9 Jun, 10:33)

Boundary changes are inevitable in that, whilst the Boundary Commission is independent, the basic rules that they have to follow are defined by act of Parliament. They were changed during the coalition government with the passing of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. This was largely because the Conservatives perceived that the rather unequal constituency sizes (in voter terms) was favouring the Labour Part as many more of their safe seats were smaller and that this was due to historical patterns which did not reflect where modern demographics and, most importantly to them, where there supporters were based.

Form memory, Parliamentary constituencies were, apart from in exceptional cases, to be equalised to within 5% of the national average. This is rather tough to achieve, and it's pretty well impossible to follow what some might think of as "natural boundaries", especially in the light of constant demographic changes. Hence these apparently arbitrary tweaks are inevitable to meet the legislative requirements. Prior to the 2011 act the Boundary Commission had far more freedom to respect historical patterns (which meant some constituencies had almost double the voters of some others).

I should further add that whilst governments can't set the actual seat boundaries, what they were able to do was delay the approval of their implementation, and on one or two occasions quite blatantly when it suited the party in power. I believe that new constituency boundaries are not to be implemented automatically without requiring Parliamentary approval.

This brings me onto one of my favourite portmanteaux words. Such were the convoluted electoral boundaries created by Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry in order to favour his own prospects, one boundary was said to resemble the outline of the mythical salamander and the word gerry-mander was coined by a local newspaper in a satirical cartoon.

Christine Battersby
👍 1

Tue 8 Jun, 19:23

Jean, the changes are because of the huge growth in numbers (new housing, plus development) in Oxfordshire. Bicester will get its own parliamentary constituency - - and I think that's probably right, given the new housing, huge distribution centres and transport links planned for Bicester over the next few years.

But the proposed arrangements cut across what I think of "natural" linkages. Stonesfield, Woodstock, North Leigh, Bladon, Kidlington and even Eynsham will be allocated to Bicester CC; Burford and Leafield will remain with Witney CC which will now stretch almost as far south as Swindon. Finstock, Chippy and Chadlington move to Banbury, along with Charlbury.

I know that part of the rationale is to keep numbers of voters roughly equal (with about a 5% margin of variation), but even so the way north Oxfordshire has been cut up seems counter-intuitive, especially in terms of transport links and infrastructure. 

When I first moved to Charlbury there were direct buses to Banbury. These days I rarely go there -- even though I drive -- mostly because of the way that Banbury town centre has been allowed to decline. And Witney is the place where I most frequently go for shopping and social activities. 

I am not sure how these changes would affect us -- although I note that at present Banburyis a safer Conservative seat than is West Oxfordshire, even if its MP is in many ways preferable to our own.

Jean Adams
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Tue 8 Jun, 18:38

Why change what works? Just more cost.

Michael Flanagan
👍 2

Tue 8 Jun, 17:52

This Electoral Commission proposal has nothing to do with local government boundaries. 

From the creation of the Witney Westminster seat in the mid-80s, Witney (the constituency) has been almost unique among English constituencies in having exactly the same boundaries as its matching local authority (West Oxfordshire). If this particular proposal goes through, it's almost certain Charlbury would remain in West Oxfordshire for local authority purposes.

With both Charlbury and Chippy moving into Banbury, I wouldn't guarantee Banbury's MP is guaranteed to stay Tory though. But with Woodstock moving to Bicester as well, a lot of recently effective "progressive" campaigning skills will leave the Witney constituency, making it safer for Robert Courts.

True: this would mean that Courts wouldn't be representing Charlbury-shire in terms of pressing for decent infrastructure. But could anyone tell? And with the County now led by a Charlbury councillor, aren't we likely to be getting more public advocacy for joined-up public transport anyway? More: whatever we may think of Victoria Prentis's policies. she's a far better communicator and campaigner than Courts - and by the 2024 election, the new County Cabinet will have developed the remarkable skills among some Oxfordshire LibDem, Labour (and Green) councillors to really challenge Ms Prentis.

Christine does have a point, though, in hinting that the decline in public transport over the past few decades is an argument for our staying in the Witney constituency - because I doubt anyone's going to create a direct bus route to Banbury. Isn't the Town Council the right group to organise the Town's reaction?

Because, while I worry about not having public transport to our notional Westminster seat, I worry more about another decade or two of the mediocracy* we've seen since October 2016. This may be our chance to get the MP we deserve.   

*There is such a word. And it means what you'd expect.

Gareth Epps
👍 3

Tue 8 Jun, 17:41

As there were no boundary changes for the 2001 election, the old ‘they all do it’ canard is particularly untrue in this context.

Leah - was it 1974 that Charlbury transferred from Banbury to the Mid-Oxfordshire seat?

Carl A Perkins
👍

Tue 8 Jun, 16:55

They all do it Nick. Bit of fiddling here, the odd tweak there. Labour did it for the 2001 election as well as reforming the House of Lords which now costs a fortune to run! Hereditary peers turned up for free in most cases just for something to do!

Carl A Perkins
👍 1

Tue 8 Jun, 15:11

I often wonder what 'skills' or knowledge these people at the boundary commission possess and how they base their outcomes. This country does not have the best track record when it comes to boundaries - look at India and Ireland for a start!

Nick Millea
👍

Tue 8 Jun, 13:23

Overall it looks like one additional Parliamentary seat for Oxfordshire. And looking at current voting patterns, an additional seat that is likely to support the incumbent governing party. Mm.

Christine Battersby
👍

Tue 8 Jun, 13:08

What difference does the loss of Bicester to Banbury CC make to the overall profile of the Banbury Parliamentary seat? An even larger change, given the projected growth of Bicester over the next few years. 

Irrespective of the political pros and cons of the changes, I would have thought that Charlbury would be likely to lose out from not having an MP who would be representing both Witney and Charlbury in terms of infrastructure. (I am thinking about the proposed upgrade of the railway between London and Long Hanborough, amongst other things.)

Richard Fairhurst
(site admin)
👍

Tue 8 Jun, 12:11 (last edited on Tue 8 Jun, 12:12)

Banbury town is half Labour, half Conservative at the moment (if you ignore the whoopsy where the returning officer read out the wrong result and then couldn’t retract it). Rural Cherwell is pretty Conservative though.

Banbury’s current MP is Victoria Prentis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Prentis

Simon Whitehead
👍 1

Tue 8 Jun, 11:54

I can see this working for Robert Courts. He loses liberal Charlbury and Labour Chippy. Banbury currently conservative but acquires more opposition? Benefit or not depending on your politics. 

Michael Peake
👍

Tue 8 Jun, 11:11 (last edited on Tue 8 Jun, 11:12)

Yes, district boundaries to remain the same. It's quite a big shift in the parliamentary constituency boundary, with Charlbury only just being cut out. Leafield remains part of Witney.

More details of the proposed Witney CC and Banbury CC.

The image above shows the existing boundaries on the left and the proposed boundaries on the right.

Christine Battersby
👍

Tue 8 Jun, 09:44

Thank you Richard. I do hope you are right. 

Richard Fairhurst
(site admin)
👍 1

Tue 8 Jun, 09:21

I don’t think there’s a proposal to change the district boundaries – this is just about parliamentary constituencies. 

Christine Battersby
👍 3

Tue 8 Jun, 09:13

Also Charlbury would also become part of Cherwell, rather than WODC. Witney would remain WODC. Given the lack of direct public transport between Charlbury and Banbury, this surely can't be a good thing.

Another map showing CC changes is here: https://boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-06-08-South-East-Initial-Proposals-A0-map.pdf

Leah Fowler
👍 1

Tue 8 Jun, 05:32

This could read 'Charlbury could return to Banbury Constituency '

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