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Electoral boundaries under the microscope.

Byline: Kate Proctor Local Government Reporter kate.proctor@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE Government has confirmed it is coming for Newcastle councillors and potentially whipping away their seats in a boundary review.

Changes will be made by 2018 and will see the authority face its first allup election in 14 years - including leader Nick Forbes' seat.

The review will look at whether Newcastle currently has too many councillors at 78, and should reduce the number of wards from 26 to 20 - which is what will be suggested by the city's Liberal Democrat party.

The last time the city's electoral boundaries were under the microscope, the Lib Dems swooped to victory. The announcement comes following the Labour run council's denial that there is concern over some city wards having too many registered voters living in them to be fairly represented by its elected members.

However a letter from Newcastle City Council chief executive Pat Ritchie, said that she had met with the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, at the Commission's request, to discuss an Electoral Review of Newcastle's ward boundaries.

She said: "The Commission have indicated that an Electoral Review will take place.

"The Commission will take a view on the size of the council. Although the precise timescales of the review are to be determined, the Commission has informed Newcastle City Council that the review must be completed for an initial all out election no later than May 2018."

She added: "An Electoral Review considers whether the boundaries of wards or divisions within a local authority need to be altered to take account of changes in electorate.

"The Local Government Boundary Commission will consider the number of councillors, the number of wards or divisions and how wards or divisions should be represented by councillors."

She said the council had told the commission about where new housing developments are due to take place, which could have an impact on wards, as well and the places expected to see a population rise, or fall.

Earlier this year, the council said that no wards in the city had populations big enough to trigger a review.

However Ouseburn and North and South Jesmond and Castle have all been highlighted by the city's opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, as being over populated.

They have argued that reducing wards to 20, and getting rid of 18 councillors would save the authority money because it wouldn't have to pay out so much in allowances and also gives a chance to draw up new wards which are more geographically aligned to the city's naturally formed communities.

Boundary reviews can have a significant impact on the political make-up of councils and the 2004 change led to a significant improvement in seat numbers for the Liberal Democrats. Traditional Labourvoting wards on the banks of the Tyne decreased in population, while new areas like Castle were created and saw residents back the party.

Benwell and Scotswood wards were merged in 2004 because of a vast drop in population, while the old Heaton ward became North Heaton and South Heaton, and Jesmond became North Jesmond and South Jesmond.

Parts of the old Sandyford ward became Ouseburn, which currently has two Liberal Democrat councillors.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 21, 2015
Words:539
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