Newbury parliamentary constituency changes announced in Boundary Commission for England review
PEOPLE in West Berkshire could find themselves voting in a new constituency if proposals to redraw the political map are approved.
The Newbury seat is to be carved up and villages east of Thatcham will have a new MP under the proposals.
The new Newbury constituency will extend from Upper Lambourn to Thatcham and from Fawley and Farnborough to Coombe, covering Hungerford, Inkpen, Chieveley, Cold Ash and the downlands villages.
People in Aldermaston, Aldworth, Ashampstead, Beedon, Bradfield, Brimpton, Bucklebury, Compton, East and West Ilsley, Frilsham, Hampstead Norreys, Lower and Upper Basildon, Midgham, Woolhampton and Yattendon could find themselves voting for the MP for Mid Berkshire if the proposals go ahead.
Calcot, Pangbourne, Purley-on-Thames, Sulham, Theale, Tidmarsh and Tilehurst – currently in Reading West – will also fall under Mid Berkshire, along with Beenham, Burghfield, Padworth, and Mortimer, which are currently in Wokingham constituency.
The Boundary Commission for England has proposed the changes to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is more equal.
The number of constituencies in England will increase from 533 to 543 under the proposals, and constituencies must have no less than 69,724 Parliamentary electors and no more than 77,062.
There were 83,414 registered voters in Newbury Constituency for the 2019 general election. Under the new proposals Newbury will have 71,631 electors and Mid Berkshire 69,999.
Newbury MP Laura Farris, who won the seat in 2019 with 34,431 votes and a majority of 16,047, welcomed the proposals.
She said: “I couldn’t argue with the logic of equalising them in the manner that was proposed. I definitely think the principle of fair representation is a really vital one.
“Obviously it’s strange because its villages that you know and you love and feel such a strong bond with, but the principle of fairness in the distribution of seats and the independence of the process is not something I would criticise at all. I think it’s welcome, it’s democratic and I think it’s as fair as it can be.”
The Conservative MP dismissed claims of gerrymandering, saying that the commission was “rigorously independent” and that MPs would not vote on the final submissions.
Asked how much of an impact she thought the changes would affect her should she stand for Newbury again, Mrs Farris said: “I would never take anything for granted in politics. It’s an incredible privilege to be elected to parliament and if it continues or if it goes, you have to accept that’s part of the political process.”
Mrs Farris said she would be raising a few points with the commission, such as splitting school catchment areas, and the Mid Berkshire name.
She said: “I think the strange thing is even the title of the seat… because I’m so used to thinking of us as West Berkshire and suddenly a new language is being introduced.”
Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Newbury Lee Dillon said: "The proposals that have come out need close scrutiny. We need to make sure that where the boundaries run are not splitting communities.
"Having Newbury and Thatcham within the same constituency always gives us a chance here. We increased our share of the vote here at the last election and took a seat off the Conservatives in the Clay Hill by-election. It really shows that the blue wall across the South is crumbling here in West Berkshire."
Mr Dillon, who finished second behind Mrs Farris with 30.6 per cent of the vote in 2019, added: "The Mid Berkshire seat has no major towns in it, but it takes quite a bit of what people would call the Reading suburbs area like Calcot and Tilehurst.
"It's about 'is that the best way for people in that area to be represented?'
"This review was initially to reduce the number of MPs to create bigger constituencies. Part of the important thing about democracy is access to your representative. I don't mind seeing smaller constituencies because then you get better representation."
Responses to the the initial proposals and a secondary consultation are planned for early 2022, followed by revised proposals and further consultation later that year.
Final recommendations are set to be published in June 2023.
To view and comment on the proposals, including boundary lines and constituency names, visit www.bcereviews.org.uk before the consultation closes on August 2, 2021.
Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, Tim Bowden, said: “We consider all feedback received during the consultation process, and it is your local knowledge that helps us to shape constituencies that best reflect your local area.
"It is easy to get involved – view our proposals and have your say through our online consultation portal – www.bcereviews.org.uk”