July 3rd 2023
A number of people have raised queries about the parliamentary boundary changes that affect East Kent.
May I, first, explain that the Boundary Commission, whose job is to maintain constituencies at a given number of electors per Member of Parliament, is wholly independent of government. Their recommendations are the subject of scrutiny, written and oral evidence and counter-proposals before being finalised with orders laid before the House of Commons. Those proposals are not voted upon in parliament.
In the case of East Kent the Commission determined that the Canterbury constituency was too large and therefore proposed adjustments to Canterbury and North and South Thanet to reflect what they saw as an imbalance.
The Commission`s solution was to remove the Sturry ward from Canterbury and insert it, with Sandwich and Little Stour and Ashstone , into a new seat to be called Herne Bay & Sandwich (the majority of which is still the former North Thanet seat). Additionally, they then proposed to remove Margate, Dane Valley and Salmestone from North Thanet and to include those wards with Cliftonville, Broadstairs and Ramsgate in a new seat to be called East Thanet.
Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) and I both considered these proposals to be cumbersome and unnecessarily disruptive requiring, as they do, the creation of two confusingly named new seats.
We proposed, instead, the division of the Sturry ward of Canterbury at the railway level crossing – a natural boundary – and the inclusion of the northern/seaward side of the ward in North Thanet to reduce the Canterbury electorate. Job done with the minimum of disruption.
We gave evidence in person at the inquiry and followed this up in writing when our initial suggestions were rejected.
In their final determination, published last week, the Boundary Commission said:
“We strongly considered dividing the Sturry ward in order to recommend that the existing North and South Thanet constituencies be retained with only minimal changes. We acknowledge that doing so would better reflect the existing pattern of constituencies; (my italics) however, we also note that the revised proposals for Canterbury and East Thanet constituencies have been broadly well received. While we recognise that there may be a lack of community ties between the Little Stour and Ashstone and Sandwich wards and the rest of the proposed Herne Bay and Sandwich constituency (again, my italics) we are unpersuaded that this is a sufficient concern to justify dividing the Sturry ward. We have therefore confirmed our revised proposals for Canterbury, East Thanet and Herne Bay and Sandwich as our final recommendations.”
I find it strange that the Commission should prefer a “lack of community ties” to dividing one ward along a natural boundary but their decision is independent and final.
The new Herne Bay & Sandwich seat for which I have been selected as the Conservative candidate and which I would be honoured to represent if elected will, therefore, embrace three different local authorities and be the only seat in England with both North and South Coast shorelines. Additionally, and historically I will have been the only Member of Parliament of any party to have represented North Thanet, a constituency that was created in 1983 and will cease to exist at the next General Election.
I shall be very sad to lose Margate , a town and community for which I have developed a huge affection, from `my patch` but will help to see the Town Deal , for which we have worked so hard, through to delivery and I will look forward to the challenges and opportunities offered by new territory and to helping to forge the `community ties` that the Boundary Commission has acknowledged do not at present exist.