Constituency must not be divided up

RECENTLY the Boundary Commission unveiled proposals relating to a change in the make-up of the English Parliamentary boundaries with the objective of reducing the number of MPs from 533 to 502 by the time of the next election.

So far as the eastern half of Northumberland is concerned, the outcome would be to re-arrange the current Berwick, Wansbeck and Blyth constituencies into two new Berwick/Morpeth and Blyth/Ashington ones.

I wonder, however, how many of my fellow 3,575 electors of the current Wansbeck constituency Bothal Ward realise what the implications would be for our western end of Ashington, or whether what is being proposed has simply slipped under the radar?

If the proposals as outlined go ahead we would be cut off from the rest of Ashington and moved into the proposed Berwick and Morpeth constituency.

The remaining four wards in the town would go into the proposed Blyth and Ashington constituency. What nonsense.

Let me highlight just two absurdities of the proposals. People living on one side of the road that runs through a major private Bothal Ward housing estate will be in Berwick and Morpeth while their neighbours on the other side would be in Blyth and Ashington.

And if the head of Ashington High School wanted to talk to his MP he would have to speak to the Berwick incumbent if the issue related to the main high school site, or alternatively the Blyth and Ashington member if he wanted to address an issue relating to the school annexe on the other side of the road.

But it is the broader picture that should concern us most.

The good people of Ashington – once dubbed the ‘biggest pit village in the world’ – are proud of our town, our roots, our heritage and the fact that we have stuck together through thick and thin.

We need, therefore, to continue to speak with one voice if we are to have a viable and prosperous future.

It is inconceivable to divide the town in this way just so a civil servant can play the numbers game of keeping the combined electorate in each proposed new constituency to a notional figure of 76,641 voters.

Incidentally, the Choppington Ward from the current Wansbeck constituency would also be moved into Berwick and Morpeth if the proposals as they stand are adopted.

Ashington has to stay together in the future.

Yet none of the other main towns in the proposed Berwick/Morpeth constituency – Berwick, Alnwick or Morpeth – would be divided up in the way Ashington would.

Why does it matter which constituency we are in?

Because we in the Bothal Ward share the same problems and concerns as our fellow Ashingtonians in the remainder of the town, so we should be able to be represented by the same Member of Parliament, not someone based 55 miles away within touching distance of the Scottish Borders.

With the greatest respect to them, I cannot see what similarities we have with the good people of the Norham and Islandshires ward, or Wooler, Bamburgh, Lesbury or Longhoughton.

But we are one of a kind with electors in the Ashington Central, Haydon, College and Hirst wards and must remain so.

I am sure many other anomalies could be highlighted in the review document, not just in Northumberland but right across the country.

However, if my fellow electors in the Bothal Ward of Ashington share my concerns they can make their views known by logging on to the Boundary Commission website to record their comments, or even ask for the opportunity to state their case in person at a hearing to be held into the proposals in Newcastle next month.

Comments have to be registered by December and the website does promise that all will be taken into account before the final recommendations are made in 2013. So the clock is ticking!