THE boundaries of Saddleworth’s three local authority wards are set to remain unchanged under proposals out for public consultation.
But calls to reduce Oldham Council’s total of 60 elected councillors to 42 haven’t found favour with the independent body reviewing the borough’s boundaries for the first time since 2003.
However, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) proposes to change the boundaries of 17 of OMBC’s 20 wards, with the exceptions in Saddleworth North, Saddleworth South and Saddleworth West and Lees.
They also rejected local authority plans to move the Birks area from West and Lees into Saddleworth North “to unite the community”.
Additionally, suggestions have been put forward to re-name Saddleworth’s three wards to Saddleworth Rural (Saddleworth North), Saddleworth Moor (Saddleworth South) and Saddleworth and Lees (Saddleworth West and Lees).
However, these plans are not backed by Saddleworth’s five Conservative OMBC councillors, where there is a consensus to support the compass point names of North, South and West.
A deadline of August 9, 2021 has been established for comments and feedback from residents and local organisations to the proposals. Final recommendations will be published on November 2, 2021.
This review is to ensure councillors will represent about the same number of electors, and that ward arrangements will help the council work effectively.
Working to 2026 projection figures, Saddleworth North would have 8,467 electors (-1.0 per cent), Saddleworth South 8,686 electors (+1.6 per cent) with Saddleworth West and Lees 8,409 (-1.6 per cent).
Councillor Max Woodvine said: “We submitted proposals that kept Saddleworth entire, whole and perfect and that is what we have worked with the Boundary Commission to do.
“Despite OMBC’s plans to dilute the unique identities of both Saddleworth and Lees to serve their own interests, we have achieved a perfect result and one which is in the interests of our people and villages.”
Cllr Luke Lancaster added: “We have always proposed to protect and preserve our Civil Parish, strengthening our sense of identity.
“That is why we wanted to retain, recognise and reference Saddleworth in the ward names but also keep Lees together in a single ward. This is now reflected in the draft recommendations and we welcome this.”
The Liberal Democrats lobbied for a reduction to 42 councillors across 20 wards but OMBC stated its case to maintain the current level of 60 – three councillors per ward.
The LGBCE said: “The Liberal Democrats made reasoned arguments for a reduction in the number of councillors.
“However, they provided limited supporting evidence and the arguments were directly refuted by much of the evidence included in the Council’s submission.
“The Council argued that a reduction in councillors would significantly impact its ability to deliver services and local leadership, while technology has increased expectations among residents, creating a 24/7 demand that was challenging for councillors.
“Having considered the evidence, we concluded that retaining a council size of 60 would ensure the Council can carry out its roles and responsibilities effectively.”
The new political map, however, does not affect Oldham’s parliamentary constituencies. The recommendations will not have an effect on local taxes, house prices, or car and house insurance premiums.
Professor Colin Mellors, Chair of the Commission, said: “We want people in Oldham to help us.
“We have drawn up proposals for new wards in Oldham. We want to make sure these new electoral arrangements reflect communities. We also want them to be easy to understand and convenient for local people.
“Residents and local organisations can help us do that. We would like them to let us know whether they agree with our proposals before we take final decisions.”
The Commission has a dedicated section on its website where people can see the detail of the proposals and comment on the names of wards and their boundaries: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/24328
People can also give their views by e-mail at email@example.com or by post: Review Officer (Oldham) LGBCE; PO Box 133; Blyth, NE24 9FE.