On Monday 28th November, Pat sent his submission to the Boundary Commission regarding potential changes to the constituency boundaries in Wolverhampton.
You can read Pat's submission in full here:
Boundary Commission initial proposals for Wolverhampton South and Coseley and Wolverhampton West
I am writing in response to the Boundary Commission proposals as they affect the current constituency of Wolverhampton South East and the proposed new constituencies of Wolverhampton South and Coseley and Wolverhampton West.
In summary my view is that if boundary changes have to happen, then the initial proposals published in September have a logic in terms of community cohesion and are a big step forward compared to the initial proposals published by the Boundary Commission for a similar exercise in the last Parliament.
I should say at the beginning that I do not agree with the overall purpose of the legislation to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 or that fact that this is being done on the basis of the electoral register as it stood in December 2015. This does not take into consideration the two million people who registered to vote between December 2015 and the EU referendum earlier this year. This is a therefore a process with an arbitrary target based on an incomplete and partial register of voters. However I understand that the Boundary Commission does not decide these factors and has to operate in line with the legislation passed by the Government. With that point made, I set out below my views of the proposals published in September of this year.
I have been the MP for Wolverhampton South East for 11 years. The constituency is made up of a number of wards centred round the Black Country town of Bilston, plus some wards which have traditionally looked to and identified with Wolverhampton. It also includes the Coseley East ward which is part of Dudley MBC. It is a diverse constituency with people of many faiths and backgrounds, and it has both a strong sense of community and a long and proud industrial history.
The Boundary Commission proposals
The initial Boundary Commission proposals as they affect this constituency have three main effects. Firstly to take the Blakenhall ward in the west of the constituency and include it in the new Wolverhampton West constituency. Secondly, to take Sedgley and Upper Gornal and Woodsetton wards which are currently part of the Dudley North constituency and add them to a new Wolverhampton South and Coseley constituency. And thirdly, to keep the other existing six wards of the current Wolverhampton South East constituency together – East Park, Ettingshall, Bilston North, Bilston East, Springvale and Coseley East. The overall result would be a new constituency made up of five Wolverhampton wards and three Dudley wards.
Let me take each of these proposals in turn. I would regret losing Blakenhall ward from the Wolverhampton South East constituency of which it has been a part since 1974. Blakenhall has a very diverse multi faith population in what is a very diverse multi faith constituency. However there are historic ties between Blakenhall and the Wolverhampton South West constituency. And today, many people from both Wolverhampton South East and West use the shops, churches, temples and gurdwaras within the ward. For example the Dudley Road shopping centre within the ward is a vibrant area with many Asian owned clothing, jewellery and food shops which attracts shoppers from all over the city. In a similar way the Hindu Shree Krishan Mandir, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Sedgley St and the Shri Guru Ravidass temple in Dudley Road attract worshippers from both Wolverhampton South East and South West constituencies. So there is already some crossover between Blakenhall ward and the existing Wolverhampton South West constituency.
In terms of the new constituency of Wolverhampton South and Coseley, the extension southwards to include Sedgley and Upper Gornal and Woodsetton is also a logical enlargement. Sedgley used to be part of the Bilston constituency before it was renamed Wolverhampton South East following the local government boundary changes of the 1960s. And in the present day Wolverhampton South East already includes the Coseley East ward which has close links with Bilston. Some Coseley children already go to school in Bilston and many people from these Dudley wards shop in Bilston’s excellent markets. So there are close and long standing links between Sedgley, Coseley and Bilston and other areas which make up the Wolverhampton South East constituency.
On this point, adding Coseley to the name of the new constituency is important and welcome as it acknowledges this is a seat which will represent parts of both Wolverhampton and Dudley.
Finally and most importantly, I welcome the fact that the wards which make up the town of Bilston and its surroundings are being kept together in the proposed Wolverhampton South and Coseley constituency. Although Bilston has been part of Wolverhampton for local government purposes since the 1960s it has a very strong and distinct identity. People from Bilston will not tell you they are from Wolverhampton. They will tell you they are from Bilston. The town is rightly proud of its role in the industrial revolution and of the iconic industrial names which shaped its economic history. Although most of these large workplaces – some of which employed thousands on single sites – are now gone, the sense of community and identity which they forged lives on and is highly relevant to how Bilston sees itself today.
In previous boundary change proposals in the last Parliament, there was a proposal to break Bilston up and scatter its parliamentary representations across four different constituencies. The proposal would have been a disaster in terms of coherent community representation and, not surprisingly, it aroused huge opposition locally in a “Keep Bilston United” campaign. Thankfully that error has not been repeated this time and your initial proposals do indeed keep Bilston united. I very much hope this is not changed following the consultation.
Taking these three proposals together I support the Boundary Commission’s initial proposals for change.
I am aware that the Commission has received counter proposals which suggest extending the current Wolverhampton South East constituency eastwards towards Sandwell rather than southwards towards Dudley and that these proposals are based to some extent on splitting wards.
I do not support splitting wards as I think this will cause confusion about representation and loosen the clear accountability links which are important parts of our representative democracy. Secondly, with regard to an extension towards Sandwell, this suggestion seems less well suited to our circumstances than the Boundary Commission’s proposal because the Boundary Commission proposal has the advantage of building on the existing constituency link between Coseley and the rest of Wolverhampton South East and the historic connection between Sedgley and the old Bilston constituency. In other words we have in the past had a constituency which included the Wolverhampton and Dudley wards in the Commission’s proposal and we already have a joint Wolverhampton and Dudley constituency today. It seems more logical to build on that rather than embark on a different direction.
I would therefore encourage the Boundary Commission to reject these counter proposals and stick to its initial proposal as published in September.
I hope this response is useful and taken fully into consideration.
Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP