At last Monday’s Council meeting, Cllr Poulter, the Leader of the Council, accused Cllr Shanker, the Leader of the Labour group, of “gerrymandering”. He also described the behaviour of Shanker as “shocking” and the worst he’d seen in his 16 years on the Council.
All very dramatic but, in fact, nonsense. Poulter was using his “stage” for egregious politicking
What’s the background?
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) wrote to the Council’s Chief Exec on 26th October 2021 advising that they were initiating a consultation on a review of the ward boundaries.
The Commission is the independent body that draws these boundaries. It is reviewing Derby to make sure councillors represent about the same number of electors, and that ward arrangements help the council work effectively. It wants to be sure that its proposals reflect community ties and identities.LGBCE website
The process is not based on the Council making one recommendation to the LGBCE. They actively encourage proposals from a wide range of sources – people and organisations
Reviews involve several consultations where we ask local people and organisations to get involved. We actively encourage this because we believe local input helps us deliver the best electoral arrangements. You can tell others about the review by using the ‘share’ buttons on the top right of this page.LGBCE website
What is the LGBCE consultation process?
The public have until 29 March 2022 to make proposals/send in views as part of the Initial Consultation stage.
From this the Commission consider their view on the best pattern of ward boundaries – this is issued on 5th July 2022.
The public then have until 12th September 2022 to pass comment on the Commission’s proposal. The final report is then issued on 29th November 2022.
What’s so different about the Labour group proposals?
The Council is made up of 17 wards with 3 Cllrs in each. As local elections were previously done by thirds ( i.e. one-third of Cllrs were up for election each year) there had to be 3 Cllrs in each ward. Recently the Council voted to change to all-out elections ( i.e all Cllrs are up for election every 4 years – similar to national elections). This opens up possibilities for having different numbers of Cllrs in each ward.
The Council’s proposal maintains 3 Cllrs per ward – the Labour group proposal creates more wards with some having only 2 Cllrs.
How are wards defined?
The LGBCE has a number of criteria for assessing a good proposal:
In drawing up a pattern of electoral wards, we seek to:
Make sure that, within an authority, each councillor represents a similar number of
Create boundaries that are appropriate, and reflect community ties and identities
Deliver reviews informed by local needs, views and circumstances
This gives some licence to ward boundary options. Most existing wards are defined by a combination of some/all of
- City Boundary
- Main A roads
- Railway line
- Natural break between population areas
However some existing ward boundaries split communities and neighbours. For example, Buxton Road in Chaddesden. Number 60 is in Chaddesden, 61 in Derwent, and 63 in Oakwood
Mackworth is made up of 2 communities separated by the A38.
There are many examples of anomalies and any proposal will have compromises. The Tories criticised the Labour proposal for splitting Chaddesden Park.
“Gerrymandering” is the political manipulation of ward boundaries. The Labour group is not making the decision on ward boundaries – no more so than any other member of the public who submits a proposal. That is the role of the independent commission. The accusation of “gerrymandering” by Poulter is quite simply – false!
The Commission welcomes options to improve the consultation process. It would appear that the Tories want to suppress a democratic and accessible process. The overt sensationalising by the Tories on social media suggesting to residents that the Labour group want to split communities is the most shocking part of this saga. Deliberately trying to destabilise people and create uncertainty for political gain , during these difficult times, is a new low for a group who are desperate to hold onto power.