By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
RESIDENTS and organisations in Gosport are being asked for their views on proposals to reduce the number of political wards across the borough and the resultant fewer councillors.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is independent of central government and responsible for ensuring ‘electoral equality’ – councillors representing approximately equal numbers of eligible voters.
In the case of Gosport, the LGBCE found that in 40 per cent of the current electoral wards the number of eligible electors represented by a councillor is significantly – it accepts a variation of up to 10 per cent – higher or lower than the average for the borough.
Based on its research and opinions expressed during the first consultation period earlier this year, the commission is recommending the number of wards should be 14 as against the current 17.
And, with two councillors being elected in each ward, the result would be a council of 28 councillors rather than the current 34.
The commission concludes in its ‘New electoral arrangements for Gosport Borough Council Draft Recommendations’ that this reduction in the number of councillors “will ensure the council can carry out its roles and responsibilities effectively”.
Gosport Borough Council will keep its ‘alternative arrangements’, committee-based structure – as against the ‘Leader and Executive’ structure of all other local authorities in Hampshire – and has agreed the proposed decrease to 28 councillors, “is an appropriate and proportionate reduction (of six) to ensure the council is run efficiently and to support a balanced workload for councillors in their community leadership roles”.
The last review of the ward boundaries in Gosport was 21 years ago and, with the population growth that has occurred and is forecast to 2026, only two of the proposed wards remain as they are currently drawn: Lee East and Lee West.
Of the recommended changes to wards, the most notable are the inclusion of the southern part of the current Privett ward in an expanded Alverstoke ward, and combining the parts of the Bridgemary North and Bridgemary South wards which lie to the east of Wych Lane into a single ward.
New names are being suggested for some of the rearranged wards – Grange & Alver Valley, Harbourside, Leesland & Christchurch, and Sultan – and the LGBCE is asking for comments, particularly in respect of how they reflect the communities and the areas.
Overall, if implemented, by 2026 it would mean each Gosport borough councillor would represent an average of 2,427 eligible electors with the highest number of voters per councillor being in Leesland & Christchurch – at 2,656 voters, this would be 9.4 percent above the borough average and close to the 10 percent upper limit set by the commission.
The lowest number of voters per councillor – 2, 234 – would be in Grange & Alver Valley ward.
‘Based on the warding pattern submitted
by the Gosport Conservative Association’
The commission’s Draft Recommendations explicitly considers submissions received during the first consultation from Gosport Borough Council, two political parties, one councillor and 23 residents but it states its proposals, “are largely based on the warding pattern submitted by the Gosport Conservative Association”.
Referring to the submission by the borough council, the commission states: “The warding pattern received from the Council did not contain any ward names or maps. We requested this information from the Council, but did not receive it and have therefore interpreted the submission based on the information provided.”
Residents and organisations have until Monday, August 30, to submit comments during this second consultation period.
There is a dedicated webpage – with links to further information and a form for comments.
Submissions can also be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to: The Review Officer (Gosport) LGBCE PO Box 133 Blyth NW14 9FE.
PATTERN OF CHANGE: Map of Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s proposed Gosport wards. Crown copyright, reproduced with permission