by Roger Harmer on 29 July, 2015
In 2018 Birmingham’s ward boundaries, which have been in place since 2004, will change. While this might seem unimportant, its actually pretty key to the context in which local decisions are taken. You can have your say about where the new boundaries will be, with the consultation period running until 28th September. The Boundary Review is managed by the Boundary Commission which is an independent body reporting to Parliament.
The number of councillors in Birmingham will fall from 120 to 100 and the Council will move from the current system of election by thirds (one of the three councillors for each ward is elected every year, with a gap year one year in 4) to all up elections every 4 years. These changes are in line with the recommendations of the Kerslake Review of Birmingham City Council published last December. With all up elections, there no longer have to be three councillors per ward and wards can be one, two or three member. While, for fairness reasons, the new wards will have to have a similar number of voters per councillor (around 8,000), the Boundary Commission will try, as far as they can, to match ward boundaries with natural community boundaries.
What might this mean for Acocks Green? Well, the current 3 councillor ward covers the vast majority of what people consider to be Acocks Green and also part of Tyseley (the Yarnfield Estate) and part of Hall Green (the area between School Road and Acocks Green). To stay a 3 councillor ward, the size of the ward would have to grow by 20% which would mean taking in significant areas from neighbouring communities. I think its unlikely this would meet the natural community test.
However a reduction to a 2 member ward, could be accommodated by losing the Tyseley and Hall Green elements of the current wards leaving it pretty well covering the B27 postcode area. This would match the natural community well. Alternatively Acocks Green could plausibly be split into two single member wards – with Acocks Green North and Acocks Green South probably making most sense.
From these two possibilities I think a 2 member ward would be much better. Most local issues affect Acocks Green as a whole rather than just the north or the south and many organisations representing the whole of Acocks Green have regular meetings, which councillors should attend if they can. Its pretty well impossible for one councillor to attend them all (I regularly have evening meeting clashes) but with two you have a fighting chance of having at least one councillor at most of them. Equally councillors are human and get sick and have holidays, so having 2 councillors is helpful for times when one is unavailable. And if you really don’t get on with one, you can go to the other with your issue. While these practicalities might not be so important in smaller, less busy wards, in large urban wards, which generate lots of casework and have lots of community organisations, they are important.
Of course Acocks Green isn’t an island and our interests will have to be matched with those of other communities to produce a proposal which works for Birmingham as a whole. Meanwhile all the political parties will, no doubt, be producing proposals which meet the Boundary Commission requirements while increasing their chances of winning as many seats as possible. (to see how, do an internet search for Gerrymandering) All this means its particularly important for you to have your say, so that these other interests can be balanced by local community preferences.
If you want to comment, you need to contact the Boundary Commission by 28th September. For details of how to do this follow this link