Agenda item

Fenland Electoral Review - FDC Warding Arrangements

For Members to consider and agree the formal Council consultation submission in relation to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) Electoral Review of Fenland District Council. This report forms the Council's response to the second part of the electoral review process regarding the proposed future warding arrangements, including future ward boundaries, number of elected representatives per ward and future ward names.



Members considered the Fenland Electoral Review - Warding Arrangements report presented by Councillor Boden.


Members made comments as follows:

·         Councillor Booth explained that he would not be supporting the warding arrangements for 42 councillors as he felt that it split the rural areas and failed to represent shared communities. He feels the views and ideas of the opposition have simply been dismissed with exception to the rural working group which focused on a 41-member scheme and aligned more closely with the current rural wards. Councillor Booth reminded the Council that he was on the last working group in 2012 and they had attempted to gain a consensus at the last review but feels this has not been the case this time. He feels there should be a recorded vote as this is a recommendation from the Conservative Group which favoured them and did not respect Fenland communities.

·         Councillor Tierney expressed his disappointment on hearing these remarks and feels that on the reviews he had attended everyone’s views were listened to and officers had been very helpful. He noted that Councillor Booth had suggested that the boundaries were politically motivated and questioned whether his opposition to them was also politically motivated. Councillor Tierney explained that it would be impossible to know whether the changes would be advantageous to any member or party and stated that he would be supporting the proposal.

·         Councillor Lynn stated that he would also be supporting the recommendation and made the point that as a Conservative councillor the changes would mean that he would lose his ward as it would no longer exist in its current state. He argued that the scheme was not a Conservative agenda and he believes that despite possibly losing his ward he was doing the right thing in supporting the recommendation.

·         Councillor French stated that she would also be supporting the recommendation and thanked the officers and Councillor Boden who had worked hard on all the changes.

·         Councillor Wallwork made the point that communities are more complex than who your councillor is or your postcode. She stated that communities are made up of similar interests, shared ideas, beliefs, values and hobbies and that communities cannot be split or shattered by boundary lines in terms of political representation.

·         Councillor Cornwell acknowledged that councillors work for their communities and that the last thing he wants to see is any splitting of natural or actual communities. He believes certain aspects of the proposal to be wrong and stated that the opposition would not be supporting the recommendation and would instead be submitting their own proposals to the Commission.

·         Councillor Booth clarified his earlier comment and stated that he wished to thank the officers for their hard work but feels the issues described previously were due to the way that the meetings had been conducted along with a lack of engagement with the wider community, including Parish Councils. He thought the last recommendation to the Commission had variances of more than 5 percent as it was not appropriate to join certain areas and made the point that other districts had even higher variances of up to 30 percent, such as in Kent, stating that the 10 percent variance suggested by the Commission was more a guide than an absolute limit.

·         Councillor Murphy made the point that the Boundary Commission does not consider political arrangements and only looks at the numbers. Councillor Miscandlon agreed with Councillor Murphy’s comment.

·         Councillor Hoy summarised her reasons for supporting the scheme making the point that there would never a perfect solution and reminding the Council that at the last review an entire chunk of her ward was lost except for one house. She explained that although it was a strange scenario for streets to be split it was not uncommon. Councillor Hoy objected to the view that the recommendation was political and noted that a councillor had attempted to make a case on social media with the public based on the belief that the recommendation would prevent them from being re-elected. She expressed the view that the idea of the recommendation being political was hypocritical when the reasons for the opposition was also political. Councillor Hoy argued that the scheme for 41 councillors only focuses on the rural areas and neglects the towns stating that no other councillors had the chance to feed into the recommendation. She feels it is a shame that there were no members of the opposition at the Wisbech workshop making it difficult for them to argue that they had not had the chance to air their views. Councillor Hoy stated that she would be supporting the recommendation.

·         Councillor Booth stated that the view that he neglected the towns was incorrect as he had feedback on the recommendations put forward based on the town workshops and his recommendation was an attempt to respect the feelings of these workshops as well as the rural areas. He expressed the view that Councillor Hoy’s statement was unfair and inaccurate. 

·         Councillor Boden stated that it was unfair to claim that they had not attempted to achieve consensus as at the first meeting Councillor Booth supported the idea for 42 councillors and that all but one member of the working group had supported the recommendation for 42 to be put to Full Council. He noted that Councillor Booth had changed his mind, which was his right to do so. Councillor Boden explained that Councillor Booth was correct in his point around the percentage variances not being set in stone, but that electoral equality was an important consideration for them and that the Commission only go over the 10 percent where there is no other alternative. He made the point that no recommendation would ever fulfil all the set criteria perfectly and that it was a matter of balance with the recommendation to Council being the best balance possible.


It was proposed by Councillor Booth that a recorded vote be taken, which was supported by Councillors Mrs Bligh, Cornwell, Maul, Patrick and Wicks.


Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Hoy and AGREED that:

·         the proposed future district warding arrangements which achieve a future Council size comprising 42 elected representatives be approved

·         authority be delegated to officers in conjunction with the Leader of the Council to add in the rationale and supporting evidence for the preferred proposed warding arrangements, prior to formally submitting the Council consultation submission to the LGBCE for consideration by the deadline of 10 January 2022.


In Favour: Councillors Benney, Boden, J Clark, S Clark, Connor, Mrs J French, Miss K French, Hay, Hoy, Lynn, Mason, Meekins, Miscandlon, Mockett, Murphy, Purser, Rackley, Seaton, Tierney, Topgood, and Wallwork.


Against: Councillors Mrs Bligh, Booth, Cornwell, Divine, Marks, Maul, Patrick, Wicks and Wilkes.

Supporting documents: