PROPOSED changes to parliamentary boundaries have been slammed as “devastating” by Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Mrs Abrahams’s constituency currently covers Saddleworth North, Saddleworth South, Saddleworth West and Lees, Shaw, Waterhead, Alexandra, Crompton, St James’, and St Mary’s.
But the recommended changes would see the formation of a new ‘Saddleworth and Littleborough’ constituency including Saddleworth, Shaw, Crompton, Milnrow and Littleborough.
The recommendations from the Boundary Commission set out new parliamentary boundaries nationwide, which define the areas that a person votes for their local MP, and could see the number of MPs cut from 650 to 600.
The review also aims to make constituencies more equal in terms of total number of voters – between 71,031 and 78,507.
The final recommendations were made following analysis of current constituencies and local government patterns as well as consultation with the public, which brought more than 35,000 individual responses.
The report, which still needs to secure the backing of MPs and peers, has now been presented to Parliament for consideration.
But the recommendations have been criticised by Mrs Abrahams, who said: “These final boundary recommendations are unfair, unacceptable and an undemocratic power grab by this Tory Government.
“While it is encouraging to see the commissioners have agreed to unite the Saddleworth wards as I lobbied for, I believe the Boundary Commission proposals are devastating for Oldham and Saddleworth as it breaks up the constituency and the direct links with local authority boundaries.
“The current number of registered voters across Oldham easily allows for two whole constituencies which respect historic towns, community ties and administrative boundaries.
“The recommendations are based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register with nearly two million voters missing.
“Much of the work we have done locally including the Oldham Fairness Commission, the Oldham Education and Skills Commission, and developing a Dementia Friendly Oldham, has been about building strong integrated communities.
“But these recommendations are, once again, an insult to the people of Oldham and Saddleworth and could have a divisive effect on our community’s representation in Parliament.
Announcing the final recommendations on their website, the Boundary Commission wrote: “During the 2018 Boundary Review we examined areas and made proposals for a new set of boundaries which are fairer and more equal, while also trying to reflect geographic factors and local ties.
“The Commission also looked at current constituencies and local government patterns in redrawing the map of boundaries in England.
“The review involved regularly consulting members of the public for their views on their local area, and the refining proposals in a number of stages.
“The Commission submitted its final recommendations to Government in September 2018. Parliament will now have the opportunity to consider our recommendations.”
You can find out more online: www.bce2018.org.uk