The 2023 Review of Parliamentary Constituency Boundaries in England – Volume one: Report – South East
The South East currently has 84 constituencies. Of these constituencies, 37 have electorates within the permitted electorate range. The electorates of two constituencies currently fall below the permitted electorate range, while the electorates of 45 constituencies are above. Our proposals increase the number of constituencies in the region by seven, to 91, including the two protected constituencies allocated to the Isle of Wight.
The South East comprises the counties of Berkshire (including the following boroughs and districts: Bracknell; Reading; Slough; West Berkshire; Windsor and Maidenhead; and Wokingham), Buckinghamshire (including the City of Milton Keynes), Hampshire (including the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton), the Isle of Wight, Kent (including the unitary authority of Medway), Oxfordshire, Surrey, East Sussex (including the City of Brighton and Hove), and West Sussex, and is covered by a mix of district and county councils, and unitary authorities.
We appointed two Assistant Commissioners for the South East – Howard Simmons and Simon Tinkler – to assist us with the analysis of the representations received during the first two consultation periods. This included chairing public hearings, which were held in the region in order to hear oral evidence directly from the public. The dates and locations of these hearings were:
In formulating our initial proposals, we noted that the electorate of the South East of 6,634,518 results in it being entitled to 91 constituencies, an increase of seven. Additionally, the rules that govern how we must allocate constituencies state that two must be allocated to the Isle of Wight, and that neither of these is required to have an electorate that is within the permitted range. We then considered how the remaining number of constituencies could be split across the region.
We noted that Berkshire’s electorate of just over 635,000 results in a mathematical entitlement to 8.65 constituencies; however, we felt that we would not be able to adequately reflect the statutory factors with an allocation of nine constituencies. Although both Hampshire and Surrey, with respective mathematical entitlements of 18.44 and 11.72 constituencies, could have stood alone as sub-regions, we noted that combining both with Berkshire in a single sub-region enabled the preservation of a number of existing constituencies, particularly along the coast of Hampshire. We therefore decided to allocate 39 constituencies to the sub-region of Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey, an increase of two on the current allocation.
The City of Milton Keynes has an electorate of 188,273, which is too large to allocate two whole constituencies: it is therefore necessary to pair it with Buckinghamshire, for a combined mathematical entitlement to 8.00 constituencies. We therefore proposed to allocate eight constituencies to this sub-region, an increase of one.
Oxfordshire’s electorate of nearly 500,000 results in a mathematical entitlement to 6.81 constituencies. We were therefore able to treat Oxfordshire as a sub-region in its own right, with an allocation of seven constituencies, an increase of one.
Similarly, the electorate of Kent, including the Medway unitary authority, is 1,325,000, equating to a mathematical entitlement to 18.05 constituencies, and we therefore proposed a Kent sub-region with an allocation of 18 constituencies, again an increase of one on the existing allocation.
The City of Brighton and Hove has just over 200,000 electors, and a mathematical entitlement to 2.75. Given the city’s historic links with East Sussex, and the existing configuration of constituencies, we considered it appropriate to include both in a single sub-region. Given East Sussex’s electorate of 414,451, this pairing has a combined mathematical entitlement to 8.40 constituencies. As in Berkshire above, we felt that, while mathematically achievable, it would be prohibitively difficult to propose eight constituencies which reflected the statutory factors. We therefore decided to include West Sussex, with a mathematical entitlement to 8.81 constituencies, in a wider Sussex sub-region, with an allocation of 17 constituencies, an increase of one.
The use of the sub-regions outlined above was largely supported during the consultation on the initial proposals. We did receive some objections to the split of sub-regions with alternative arrangements suggested such as:
sub-region which comprised the areas of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire
sub-region which comprised the areas of Surrey and Kent.
We also received proposals from some respondents that supported our proposed sub-regions, but suggested alternative crossings between the counties involved. These proposals largely involved the inclusion of a constituency crossing between Berkshire and Hampshire, either in addition to the crossings proposed, or in order to allow Surrey to be self-contained.
In formulating our revised proposals, we considered that no persuasive evidence had been received to propose a different configuration of sub-regions. We assessed whether crossing from Berkshire into either Buckinghamshire or Hampshire would improve our proposals across the region. We noted that this would assist in creating a scheme of constituencies in the Reading area that is closer to the existing constituencies; however, such a scheme would be reliant on a geographically large cross-county boundary constituency, and disrupt several constituencies which were well received during the consultation on the initial proposals. We also had concerns how this counter proposal would impact on the number of local authorities divided between constituencies. Our revised proposals were, therefore, based on the same sub-regions as those of our initial proposals
In response to our revised proposals, we did not receive any further evidence that would justify the use of alternative sub-regions to those we adopted in our revised proposals. Therefore, the sub-regions we propose as part of the final recommendations are:
Berkshire, Hampshire (including Portsmouth and Southampton) and Surrey
Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes)
East Sussex (including Brighton and Hove) and West Sussex