Preston City Council’s leader Peter Rankin has dismissed Conservative group claims the Labour group is “unnecessarily political” in the way it wants to shake up the city’s voting boundaries.
Labour pushed through an amendment this week to alter a new ward layout designed by the Local Government Boundary Commission.
The amendment re-drew many of the independent commission’s recommendations and brought howls of protest from the Conservative opposition.
The most controversial change was to combine the more upmarket areas of Cottam and Lea Town with the social housing neighbourhoods of Ingol and Tanterton. Another was to remove the Fulwood Army Barracks from the Garrison Ward which was named after it.
Coun Daniel Dewhurst, Preston Conservative chairman immediately accused Labour of “looking at the map politically.” He said the ruling group had “chosen to make their seats as safe as remotely possible and break up any Conservative and Liberal area, no matter what the cost may be to those communities and with complete disregard for the commission’s criteria.”
However council leader Peter Rankin said: “The Council has had a working group of councillors from the three political parties drawing up proposals on ward boundaries to put to the Local Government Boundaries Commission, which is currently examining the size and ward-structure of Preston City Council.
“ This was an officer-led group and at the last meeting the working group considered proposals drawn up by our officers. Separately the Labour Group had been working on its own ideas; as had the Conservative Party. Although I circulated Labour’s ideas to the other parties, backed up with a paper detailing the rationale behind such proposals, the Conservatives were not prepared to share their ideas. “So it came to the Council meeting where Councillors accepted the Labour proposals and amended the proposals that officers had drawn up and the Labour Group’s proposals became the Council’s.
“This has been a very difficult exercise. We have tried our best to keep communities together within the same ward, and not to split them up into two or more wards, but whatever way the boundaries are drawn there are bound to be anomalies”.
Under Labour’s amendment the Barracks will become part of Brookfield. Coun Dewhurst said Labour had “shown complete ignorance towards residents of Fulwood.”
The changes will now go to the LGBC as Preston’s preferred plan. The council has also agreed to a reduction in councillors from 57 to 48 and a continuation of elections for one third of members per year.