Chorley Council has agreed a proposed redrawing of its electoral map, amidst last-minute wrangling about which areas belong where.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) ordered a review of the ward pattern in the borough earlier this year. A public consultation took place over the summer and the authority is now submitting its own proposal for the LGBCE to consider - as have individual political parties.
Council officers were tasked with drawing a map which roughly equalised the number of voters in each ward. They also appealed for help from members to come up with a solution which made geographical - as well electoral - sense.
But at the eleventh hour, some were still unhappy. Buckshaw and Astley, whose burgeoning population had prompted the review, was at the centre of one councillor’s consternation.
Conservative member Eric Bell told the ruling Labour group they could “not be serious” about splitting his own Whittle-le-Woods and Clayton-le Woods ward.
“We’ve worked together as communities for well over 100 years - and now you’re putting Whittle in with Buckshaw.
“We’re hoping the boundary commission reverses [the proposal] and keeps Whittle and Clayton together,” Cllr Bell said.
Deputy council leader, Peter Wilson, admitted that the process was not a perfect science, but added: “Whichever way you look at it, it’s got to change. You can’t keep that whole area of Buckshaw, Whittle and Clayton the same - it’s just impossible, because the area is growing.”
The current Buckshaw and Astley ward has a population which is over a third larger than the Chorley average.
Deputy Conservative group leader, Martin Boardman said the proposed changes would make it “incredibly difficult” for councillors in rural areas to serve their populations properly, because of the size of the suggested new wards.
“Eccleston and Mawdsley is completely split - Eccleston going with Charnock and Heskin, and Mawdsley moving into an amalgamation of Croston, Lostock and parts of Euxton. When I first saw it, I thought it had to be the elephant in the room - because Mawdsley and Lostock has a huge trunk sticking out into Euxton,” Cllr Boardman said.
He added that the council should have agreed to holding elections every three years, rather than three in every four - as that would have allowed greater flexibility about the number of councillors serving each ward.
Council leader Alistair Bradley told opposition members that more of them should have “turned up” to the meetings of a cross-party committee which has been scrutinising the subject.
But he added that the proposals had also tried to ensure that most residents were still able to vote at the polling stations which they were used to - irrespective of whether the name of their ward had changed.
“We do have a reasonable turnout at elections in Chorley and we want to see that continue and improve - because we should all be democratically accountable to as many people as possible,” Cllr Bradley said.
The LGBCE will respond to the submissions which it has received later in the year.
IN WITH THE NEW (AND THE UNCHANGED)...
Adlington & Anderton
Buckshaw & Whittle
Brindle & Hoghton
Chorley North East
Chorley North West
Chorley South East
Chorley South West
Eccleston, Heskin & Charnock
Lostock & Mawdesley
...AND OUT WITH THE OLD
Adlington and Anderton
Astley and Buckshaw
Brindle and Hoghton
Clayton-le-Woods and Whittle-le-Woods
Clayton-le-Woods West and Cuerden
Eccleston and Mawdsley
Heath Charnock and Rivington
Wheelton and Withnall