Friday, 23 December 2016

South Broxtowe Borough boundaries compared

The first map below is from the 1898 Ordnance Survey one inch map which includes Beeston. When the new Broxtowe Borough Council wards (used for the first time in the 2015 Borough election) and new Nottinghamshire county council wards were created (which will be used for the first time in the May 2017 county council election), I was interested in seeing how they coalesced with historic boundaries, so I used the 1898 OS map as a base map on which I highlighted in blue the parish boundaries which existed at the time.

I then compared the historic boundaries with those for the new borough and county council wards. Comparing the 1898 parish boundaries with the current borough and county council ward boundaries.

The five parishes of Toton/Attenborough, Chilwell, Beeston, Bramcote and Stapleford make up the area which coalesced into the Beeston & Stapleford Urban District Council in 1935 before being subsumed into Broxtowe Borough Council when it was created in 1973 and taking over in 1974.

The current southern ward boundaries of Broxtowe Borough Council respect the historic parish northern boundaries and that of the old urban district council...

...whilst the current Nottinghamshire County Council ward boundary changes put Stapleford and part of Bramcote in with Trowell in what I call the Broxtowe 'Middle-lands'. In other words, the historic connection has been lost.

Do historic boundaries matter? It's a topic which can provoke heated discussions and conclusions which defy logic. Beeston has historic links with Lenton, which is now part of the city of Nottingham. Long Eaton clearly gravitates towards Nottingham, but is in Derbyshire and I am sure the majority of its residents want to stay part of Derbyshire.

The Guardian today reports on a court's decision that Chesterfield Borough Council failed in its duty to consult local residents and businesses when it decided in March this year to apply for membership of the South Yorkshire regional consortium led by Sheffield City Council (see Guardian link here). The court's decision raises an interesting point insomuch as ward boundaries are imposed on local communities by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England only after a consultation.

One of my favourite historical documents relates to work of government commissioners at the time of Local Government (Boundaries) Act 1887, which was the precursor of local government as we know it today. A whole section is devoted to how 'border' towns came to be placed in a particular county. 

The big difference between 1887 and now is the electoral obsession with electoral voting equality; all parliamentary constituencies and wards in a council area have to have voter-councillor ratios within a few percentage points, even this means cutting historic communities in two or, even, three.

I am a great believer in our elected representatives representing communities first and numbers second. I accept that in the absence of any counter-balancing mechanism this could give smaller communities power over larger communities. The way around this problem is the added member system, whereby the votes cast for each party are totalled for the whole country/council and highest losing candidates given seats until their party reaches its quota and electoral balance achieved. All this may seem a long way from where this post started, but the southern end of Broxtowe does seem to have an 'apartness' from the rest of Borough and, at some point, it is an issue which need to be addressed.

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