A leading politician has labelled plans to redraw Lancashire’s political map a “gerrymandering exercise”.
The Boundary Commission set out plans today to reduce the number of Lancashire seats from 16 to 14 as part of a major overhaul of the county’s political map.
The remaining constituencies will all be redrawn with parts of inner city Preston moving to the Ribble Valley seat and leafy suburban villages being tacked on to urban seats.
Supporters say the alterations will iron out discrepancies in constituency electorates.However, Preston’s Labour MP Mark Hendrick believes the plans have been designed to make it harder for Labour politicians to be re-elected by broadening inner city constituencies to include more affluent villages.
He criticised plans to remove Fishwick ward from the Preston seat and add it to the Ribble Valley constituency.
He said: “I am very unhappy with these changes.
“They are a gerrymandering exercise to curry political persuasion.
“Fishwick, for instance, is an inner city ward. It has nothing to do with the Ribble Valley whatsoever.
“The Preston ward, and many others, is being redrawn to include the leafy suburbs around the city that would traditionally help the Conservatives.
“That said, in Preston, I don’t think it will have a major impact.
“I would still be confident of retaining the seat.”
Conservative Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans defended the proposals but admitted “tweaks” needed to be made before any changes are implemented.
He said: “It doesn’t seem right to include Fishwick in the Ribble Valley constituency.
“They are very different places and the people of Fishwick are already very well represented.
“I support the changes in principal but some changes are certainly needed.”
Currently Mr Evans’ constituency includes parts of Ribble Valley and South Ribble.
However, if the changes are approved, it will be enlarged to include parts of Pendle and Preston meaning he will have to deal with four local councils. He said: “Administratively it does not make sense to spread a constituency over four local authorities.
“I will certainly make my representations clear but with a few tweaks I’m sure we can get it right and protect the area of Ribble Valley.”
Under the draft proposals, which are released today, the number of MPs in England will reduce from 533 to 502 by the 2015 general election.
Simon James, secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, said: “Parliament has set clear rules about how many electors each constituency can have.
“In the first stage of the review, the commission has produced provisional recommendations.
“We are now seeking views on these recommendations and residents are invited to comment.”
There are currently 16 constituencies in Lancashire, which will be reduced to 14 under the draft proposals.
Pendle and Hyndburn will both be scrapped leaving MPs at risk.
Preston will be enlarged by around 15,000 extra voters, including parts of surrounding villages that are currently in other wards. The seat will extend north into Poulton-le-Fylde.
The Ribble Valley seat will be spread across four local authority wards – Preston, South Ribble, Ribble Valley and Pendle. It will also include Preston’s inner city Fishwick ward.
Lancaster will no longer include Fleetwood, but will include large parts of Wyre. It will also include traditional parts of Ribble Valley, including Chipping.
Chorley will be enlarged to include villages such as Eccleston, Mawdesley and Croston which are currently part of the South Ribble seat despite being part of Chorley Borough.
Public meetings will discuss the proposals on October 24/25 at Macdonald Tickled Trout, Preston New Road, Samlesbury.