Local Government Boundaries Commission for England (Wandsworth Council boundary review) – my submission

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is carrying out a review of the Ward boundaries in Wandsworth. The proposal is to reduce the total number of Councillors from 60 to 58, which when coupled with the growth in population in northeast Battersea means more residents per Councillor. Below is my submission which just covers the Putney parliamentary constituency – basically I do not see any need for a radical change in Ward boundaries, though West Hill could probably do with being a little larger. You can make a submission at https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/16790 before August 5th – there will then be an opportunity to comment on the Commission’s proposals.

 

SUBMISSION TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOUNDARY COMMISSION WITH REGARD TO THE LONDON BOROUGH OF WANDSWORTH
July 30 2019
Malcolm Charles Grimston, 67 Trevelyan Road, London SW17 9LR
Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward
malcolmgrimston@btconnect.com

THE AUTHOR

The author has represented “West Hill Ward” on Wandsworth Borough Council since 1994. This included 8 years when West Hill was a two-Member Ward covering two polling directs of the present Ward plus an area north of the A3, and 17 years in current three-Member Ward.

SUMMARY

1. Retaining coterminosity of Ward and Parliamentary boundaries within the London Borough of Wandsworth, while increasing the numbers of councillors in Battersea by 1 to 22, reducing those in Putney by 1 to 17 and reducing those in Tooting by 2 to 19, offers the opportunity to delivers 58 Council Wards of essentially the same number of electors per Councillor.

2. Within Putney the transfer of polling district RH4 to West Putney Ward, reducing the number of councillors serving Roehampton & Putney Heath to 2 and retaining five 3-member Wards, is essentially sufficient to meet the criteria to which the LGBCE is working with very little disruption to currently established boundaries and service patterns. However, a small number of minor transfers among Wards, none of which have major community implications, are suggested which would bring all Wards to within 3% of the Borough average councillor-to-electors ratio. The six Wards would also be essentially the same size geographically owing to the presence of Putney Heath within the Roehampton & Putney Heath Ward.

3. This submission does not attempt to suggest how rewarding in the Parliamentary Constituencies of Battersea and Tooting may be carried out as the author has less knowledge of the community implications of various options in those Constituencies – please discount the appearance of these two Constituencies in the attached illustrations.

SCOPE OF THIS SUBMISSION

4. The redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, in effect creating a new ‘town centre’, has profound implications for the north-east of the Borough of Wandsworth, notably Queenstown Ward, and it is clear that a major redrawing of Ward boundaries will be required in this part of the Borough.

5. However, while of course there have been and are considerable levels of development elsewhere in the Borough (as there have been across London and indeed in many other areas) in the 20 years since the last boundary review, the knock-on effects of the Power Station development become less dramatic as one moves to the west and the south.

6. Although there is no requirement for Council Wards to be coterminous with Parliamentary constituencies, this has been the practice in the London Borough of Wandsworth (and many others), apparently since its inception. At present there are seven Wards entirely within the Parliamentary constituency of Battersea; six within Putney; and seven within Tooting, all Wards having three Members. There are advantages in retaining this link, presuming that to do so does not come into tension with the Commission’s statutory criteria. These include relationships (Members working closely with a single MP on Ward issues); clarity of representation and accountability (residents knowing that if they are in Southfields Ward, for example, then they are also in Putney Constituency); and management of statistics. Of course Parliamentary boundaries do change from time to time but the present proposals before Parliament seem to have become somewhat becalmed.

7. Wandsworth Council figures suggest a total electorate of 244,715, with Battersea Constituency having 92,931, Putney 71,680 and Tooting 80,104. Presuming that the total number of councillors were reduced to 58 and that Battersea had 22 Members (up one), Putney 17 (down one) and Tooting 19 (down two), the ratio of councillor-to-resident in the three Constituencies would be extraordinarily consistent: 1 to 4,224 in Battersea and 1 to 4,216 in each of Putney and Tooting (the Borough-wide average being 1 to 4,219).

8. This would seem to suggest a very attractive starting point:

that all ‘new’ Wards should be situated within a single Parliamentary Constituency, as at present; that Battersea should see an increased representation of one councillor to 22; Putney a reduction of one councillor to 17; Tooting a reduction of two councillors to 19.

9. From this it follows that to an extent the three Constituencies could be treated separately. As the author of this submission has more understanding and experience of the Putney Constituency the submission will focus on the six Wards of Wandsworth Council which presently constitute the Putney Parliamentary Constituency, viz. East Putney, Roehampton & Putney Heath, Southfields, Thamesfield, West Hill and West Putney: please discount any apparent specific boundary changes for the other Constituencies in the attached documents.

10. The main proposal is to reduce the Roehampton & Putney Heath Ward to two members by moving polling district RHD (the area north of Clarence Lane and west of Roehampton Lane) into West Putney. This change alone brings all the Wards within Putney to within 10% of the average representation across the Borough in a 58-councillor council. However, relatively minor changes at the boundaries of the other Wards would allow for all the new Wards more closely to meet the ‘electoral equality’ criterion while retaining the current generally strong association between communities and Ward boundaries.

PUTNEY CONSTITUENCY

11. As currently configured, the Parliamentary Constituency of Putney consists of six entire Wards, electing a total of 18 councillors. Three Wards – East and West Putney and Thamesfield – cover what might broadly be recognised as the settlement of Putney (SW15); the settlements of Southfields (SW18) and Roehampton (SW15) have one Ward each; while West Hill Ward largely covers the SW19 (historic Wimbledon Park) area with some adjacent SW18 and SW15 postcode areas. Given the effective relationship between major communities and the current Ward boundaries, coupled with the Ward-based statistics that have been collected for many years, the proposal suggest that relatively minor changes to the Warding structure within Putney could deliver on the statutory requirements while representing minimal disruption to present ways of working.

12. As noted above, reducing the total to 17 councillors would satisfy the requirement for equal representation across the Borough, presuming of course that the electorate is evenly distributed among Putney Wards in the new Warding structure. The simplest way of achieving this would be to reduce one Ward to two Members, retain five 3-Member Wards and make a small number of suitable minor alterations to the boundaries of other Wards. By transferring an entire polling district, RHD, from one Ward to another and restricting other changes to a minimum the statutory outcomes can be delivered with a very small amount of disruption to the present pattern of Wards: for example very few residents would have to move to another polling station.

THE WARDS

EAST PUTNEY

13. East Putney is a coherent community on the Putney/Wandsworth borders. By these proposals it would be essentially unchanged, possibly losing a small area north of the A3 to West Hill Ward and gaining small areas from West Putney and Southfields (see below). With these boundaries the Ward is 0.3% above electoral parity.

ROEHAMPTON AND PUTNEY HEATH WARD

14. The population of the present Ward is considerably smaller than would justify 3 members. Transferring Polling District RHD (the area north of Clarence Lane/west of Roehampton Lane) to West Putney would create a Ward the correct size for two Members. This change leaves the main residential community of Roehampton & Putney Heath Ward (the Alton Estate) and also the Putney Vale estate undivided, while transferring the University, Roedean Gardens/Roehampton Gate and the Arabella Drive estate into West Putney. In terms of area the new Roehampton & Putney Heath Ward would remain the largest in the Constituency owing to the presence of Putney Heath itself. With these boundaries the Ward is 1.9% above electoral parity.

SOUTHFIELDS

15. The main features of the Southfields community, e.g. the Southfields Grid and the Southside Housing estate, remain intact in these proposals. Transferring a small area bounded by Granville Road (to the south), Merton Road and Wimbledon Park Road to East Putney would reduce Southfields Ward to the correct size: there are no very clear reasons why this should not be done in terms of natural community boundaries – indeed the new boundary now runs right along Granville Road rather than departing from it at Wimbledon Park Road as at present. With these boundaries the Ward is 0.7% above electoral parity.

THAMESFIELD

16. Thamesfield Ward, a coherent community bounced in effect by the River and the Upper Richmond Road, remains unchanged in these proposals. With these boundaries the Ward is 0.8% above electoral parity.

WEST HILL WARD

17. The present West Hill Ward is bounded by the Merton border; the London Underground line running from East Putney to Wimbledon Park stations; the A3 (West Hill); and Wimbledon Park Side/Wimbledon Common – all ‘natural’ borders. However, as currently constituted it is a little too small (about 5.7% below electoral parity), though well within the 10% guidelines. The nature of the current boundaries might suggest retaining these borders would be justified. However, if felt desirable on representational equity grounds, it is to be noted that the previous West Hill Ward (1978-2002), a two-Member Ward, included an area north of the A3 in a triangle bounded by West Hill, Tibbet’s Ride/Putney Hill and Lytton Grove – there is an A3 underpass linking Beaumont Road and Putney Heath Lane. To transfer all of this area to West Hill Ward (over 2,000 electors) would be excessive but, if it were felt necessary, adding the area formed by Tibbet’s Corner, Tibbet’s Ride/Putney Hill, Putney Heath Lane and the A3 could be returned to West Hill, bringing the Ward up to within 3% of electoral parity without significantly disturbing its essential structure. With these boundaries the Ward is 2.8% below electoral parity.

WEST PUTNEY

18. Gaining the area north of Clarence Lane and west of Roehampton Lane from Roehampton & Putney Heath Ward creates a West Putney Ward which is slightly too large, though well within the 10% limit. This could be countered by moving a small area including Holroyd Road, Balmuir Gardens and the Upper Richmond Road into East Putney, thereby equalising East and West Putney Wards. Main features such as the Ashburton Estate and the roads south of the Upper Richmond Road would remain intact. With these boundaries the Ward is 0.6% below electoral parity.

CONCLUSIONS

19. The above proposed changes bring all six Wards in the Putney Parliamentary Constituency to within 3% of electoral equality, while retaining the advantages of all Wards remaining in a single Parliamentary Constituency and without breaking up natural communities.

20. With respect to the interests and identities of local communities, by representing a relatively minor set of changes these proposals will retain the sense of community associated with the current Council Wards. The most affected Ward, Roehampton, retains the Alton Estate which is the heart of the area. The major change involves transfer of an entire polling district from the present Roehampton & Putney Heath Ward to the present West Putney Ward, with relatively minimal consequences in terms of administration.

21. The Wards so created would involve little disruption to the current configuration; be of similar size geographically; allow the statistics collected over the last 20 years since the 2002 boundary changes to be largely transferrable to the new Warding pattern; retain a pattern of multi-member Wards.

Malcolm Grimston
July 30 2019
(Link to proposals at https://rds.statmap.co.uk/map/map.html?login=wandsworth2_viewer&scenario=MALCOLM_GRIMSTON_SUBMISSION_JULY_30_2019&sid=e9d553cfde9b3172b3e439c74e752e1e).