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Revised proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries in the West Midlands region

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Birmingham and Solihull


3.56 Both constituencies in the borough of Solihull are above the permitted electorate range, and the local authority therefore needed to be paired with a neighbouring local authority in the initial proposals. We proposed pairing Solihull with Birmingham, transferring the wards of Castle Bromwich and Smith’s Wood to the Birmingham Hodge Hill constituency. In order to balance the two constituencies wholly within the borough, the initial proposals would transfer the Elmdon and Silhill wards from the Solihull constituency to Meriden, moving Blythe in the opposite direction.

3.57 We received broad support for both proposed Solihull constituencies throughout both public consultations, with all qualifying political parties supporting our pattern of constituencies, including the proposal to link the Castle Bromwich and Smith’s Wood wards with the Birmingham Hodge Hill constituency.

3.58 Despite support from the qualifying political parties, a large proportion of representations received from members of the public in Solihull were made in reference to Castle Bromwich and Smith’s Wood. Comments were almost unanimous in their objection to the initial proposals.

3.59 Although we received both supportive and opposing representations regarding the proposed Solihull and Meriden constituencies, the weight of representations from residents outside of Castle Bromwich and Smith’s Wood were heavily in favour of the initial proposals. We also received a supportive letter writing campaign regarding the two constituencies from residents of Dorridge, Knowle and Elmdon (BCE‑86004). Although it did not include a full counter-proposal, we also received a representation that recommended splitting wards in Solihull borough in order to limit change to existing constituency boundaries as far as possible (BCE‑60824).

3.60 The public consultations provided us with evidence regarding local ties in the north of Solihull borough. Despite their close geographical proximity to Birmingham, residents of the Castle Bromwich and Smith’s Wood wards considered their area culturally and socially detached from the city. Most respondents felt a close affinity to Solihull and wished to continue under the representation of a Solihull MP. Despite this, we did not receive evidence to support a cross-local authority boundary constituency anywhere else between Solihull and Birmingham.

3.61 We received evidence to support the initial proposals for the proposed Meriden constituency. At the Birmingham public hearing, Saqib Bhatti, MP for Meriden (BCE‑97171), said that the decision to link Solihull and Birmingham together in the Hodge Hill constituency reflected the ‘functional economic geography of the area’. The Assistant Commissioners agreed with Saqib Bhatti MP’s additional acknowledgment that any alternative proposals may result in a greater degree of disruption across the sub-region.

3.62 A number of respondents argued that the rural-urban distinction between the Solihull and Meriden constituencies would be blurred under the initial proposals and, as two Solihull town wards would be moved into the Meriden constituency, Solihull should be included in both constituency names (BCE‑80842). This position was also argued in a petition submitted by Saqib Bhatti MP (BCE‑83344). Despite this, we also received some comments that disagreed with this proposed amendment, arguing that it would imply ‘superiority over the historic name [of Meriden]’ (BCE‑79721).

3.63 The Assistant Commissioners considered splitting a ward in Solihull as put forward in submission BCE‑60824. They noted the possibility of splitting the Elmdon ward, thus allowing the Solihull constituency to remain largely unchanged from its existing form. While they recognised that this would help to limit change to existing constituency boundaries, they also noted the lack of support for this approach during the public consultations. Conversely, they acknowledged the weight of representations supporting the decision to avoid splitting Solihull borough wards in the initial proposals (Meriden Conservative Association – BCE‑73613).

3.64 The Assistant Commissioners agreed that the proposals to include Castle Bromwich and Smith’s Wood wards in the Birmingham Hodge Hill constituency may not be ideal for those wards; however, in their view, the inclusion of these allows for a pattern of constituencies that better satisfies the statutory factors across the sub-region overall. The Assistant Commissioners took into consideration the support we had received for the proposed Solihull and Meriden constituencies, and lack of objection from the Birmingham part of the proposed Hodge Hill constituency. They therefore recommended no change to the proposed Hodge Hill constituency, and we accept their recommendation.

3.65 The Assistant Commissioners recognised the desire for an alteration of the Solihull and Meriden constituency names. The boundaries of both constituencies under the initial proposals would differ from the existing constituencies, and the rural-urban divide between the two become more ambiguous. The Assistant Commissioners also felt, however, that the proposed names are both clear and in line with the Commission’s naming policy. They therefore did not recommend making any alterations to the names or boundaries of the proposed Solihull and Meriden constituencies. We accept their recommendation, and therefore do not propose any revisions to either constituency as initially proposed.

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3.66 Due to local ward boundary changes, it was not possible to keep any of the Birmingham constituencies wholly unchanged. The initial proposals aimed to limit changes to existing constituencies as far as practicable. In our initial proposals we proposed to split two wards in the city: Weoley & Selly Oak; and Brandwood & King’s Heath. This was proposed to preserve community ties within the Birmingham Selly Oak and Birmingham Northfield constituencies, and avoid significant disruption to constituencies across the south of the city – and consequential breaking of other local ties – that would have been necessitated by a pattern of constituencies comprising whole wards. Both wards are split by the existing constituency boundaries, and the initial proposals would broadly retain the existing split in both cases.

3.67 The Labour Party supported our initial proposals for Birmingham in full, while the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats proposed counter-proposals impacting different parts of the city. The counter-proposal from the Conservative Party (BCE‑86587) proposed changes to the Perry Barr and Erdington constituencies. They put forward an alternative that would meet the electorate requirement by splitting the Stockland Green ward; this counter-proposal drew considerable support from respondents in both public consultations. The Liberal Democrats (BCE‑97146) proposed an alternative pattern of constituencies that would impact the constituencies of Ladywood, Hall Green, Edgbaston, Selly Oak and Northfield; this counter-proposal would not split any wards in the city. We did not receive any representations supporting this proposal, or providing evidence of local ties.

3.68 The proposed Northfield constituency was largely supported by respondents. They felt that the constituency would be reflective of community ties in south Birmingham and respect existing constituency boundaries (BCE‑82596). The proposal to split the Weoley & Selly Oak ward was also supported by Gary Sambrook, MP for Birmingham Northfield (BCE‑97156), among others.

3.69 Some respondents objected to the proposed Selly Oak constituency due to concerns about community ties in the area (BCE‑58098), or access issues within the constituency (David Murray – BCE‑97186). Overall, however, the proposed constituency was well supported, and responses such as BCE‑69340 provided evidence that the proposed boundaries would keep areas that share close community ties within the same constituency.

3.70 The proposed Edgbaston constituency was well supported by respondents in the consultation process. Residents particularly argued that the proposal to transfer the whole of North Edgbaston into the constituency would help to reflect close community ties between the ward and the rest of the existing Edgbaston constituency (BCE‑68948).

3.71 Evidence received regarding the proposed Sutton Coldfield constituency commented on the local identity held within the Sutton Coldfield wards. Sutton Coldfield was described as having a distinct community identity, separate from the rest of the City of Birmingham, marked by a ‘clear, historic and defining boundary’ (BCE‑85955). This same town boundary was also discussed by the MP for Sutton Coldfield, Andrew Mitchell (BCE‑86951), who argued for the constituency name to be changed to Royal Sutton Coldfield, stating that, as the proposed constituency is coterminous with the town boundary, its name should match that of the town.

3.72 The proposed Selly Oak, Edgbaston, Northfield and Sutton Coldfield constituencies all drew an overall level of support throughout the consultation periods. Meanwhile, we received fewer representations regarding the proposed Hall Green, Yardley and Ladywood constituencies. In the view of the Assistant Commissioners, we did not receive any compelling evidence that changing the boundaries of any of these constituencies would better reflect the statutory factors. The Assistant Commissioners therefore did not recommend making any changes to the proposed composition of these seven constituencies. We agree with the position of the Assistant Commissioners on this point and therefore do not propose making revisions to any of them.

3.73 The Assistant Commissioners considered the arguments for adjusting the name of the Sutton Coldfield constituency; however, they noted that the existing constituency name is well aligned with the Commission’s naming policy. Additionally, as the proposed constituency boundary is largely unchanged from the existing one, they saw no grounds on which to recommend a name change. We accept the arguments of the Assistant Commissioners and understand that the local government wards in Sutton Coldfield do not have the prefix of Royal; therefore, we are minded to not change the proposed name of the constituency.

3.74 The proposed Erdington and Perry Barr constituencies drew significant objection throughout both consultation periods. We also received several petitions opposing these two constituencies (BCE‑84738, BCE‑85143 and North Birmingham Community Together – BCE‑85111).

3.75 The initial proposals report acknowledged that the Aston and Lozells wards may not share local ties with the Erdington area; this assessment was substantiated by the evidence received. Respondents commented on the close relationship between Aston and Lozells wards, and the proposed Perry Barr constituency south of the M6. One respondent particularly emphasised the shared retail services and religious communities linking Aston and Lozells with Perry Barr (BCE‑74220). We were also provided evidence of a geographical separation between Aston and Lozells wards and the rest of the proposed Erdington constituency. Respondents identified a lack of direct bus routes (BCE‑74220) and the physical barrier of the M6 motorway (John Preston – BCE‑67865) as reasons for this feeling of separation.

3.76 Respondents also outlined the existence of a ‘shared community’ between the wards of Kingstanding and Oscott (BCE‑80766). One local resident identified the historical and long-lasting Roman Catholic connection between Oscott, Kingstanding and Erdington (BCE‑80887). This close connection between the areas was also recognised in the initial proposals report. In addition to the close ties these areas share with each other, we also received evidence arguing that Erdington, and Erdington High Street in particular, served as the key community centre that Kingstanding and Oscott relate most closely to (BCE‑80825).

3.77 The Conservative Party counter-proposal for north Birmingham would rely on a split of the Stockland Green ward, transferring three polling districts, centred around Slade Road, to the Perry Barr constituency. Gary Sambrook MP discussed this area at the Birmingham public hearing (BCE‑97156), stating that the area was a ‘neighbourhood in its own right’. Despite this, we received very little evidence regarding the local ties of the Slade Road area; the Assistant Commissioners therefore visited the Stockland Green ward in order to assess the merit of this proposal.

3.78 The site visit corroborated the evidence of Gary Sambrook MP, as it was clear that Slade Road provided amenities and community services to the surrounding housing. The Assistant Commissioners concluded that the Slade Road area could indeed be considered an area in its own right within the Stockland Green ward. The Assistant Commissioners also considered the potential access problems between Slade Road and the area south of the M6. They noted that the A4040 / Brookvale Road provides the only direct road link between the Slade Road area and Aston.

3.79 The site visits supplied little evidence that this area of Stockland Green has particular affinity to Perry Barr, and indeed this was conceded by some respondents during the consultation process. Councillor Ewan Mackey (BCE‑97154) said that there was ‘an element of compromise’ involved in this counter-proposal, with the overarching objective of the counter-proposal being to include Aston, Lozells, Kingstanding, and Oscott in constituencies with which they had the strongest community ties.

3.80 Based on the balance of evidence gathered from both the consultation process and the site visits, the Assistant Commissioners accepted the argument put forward by the Conservative Party regarding the Erdington and Perry Barr constituencies. The Assistant Commissioners recognised that the links between the Slade Road area and the proposed Perry Barr constituency are not as clear as those of Kingstanding and Oscott to Erdington, or Aston and Lozells to Perry Barr. Despite this, they considered the Conservative Party’s counter-proposal would achieve a far better reflection of community ties overall across both constituencies, without any wider disruptions.

3.81 Having considered the evidence presented to us, and particularly whether splitting a ward is an appropriate solution to this issue, we are persuaded both that the initial proposals for these constituencies are unsatisfactory, and that there is no whole ward solution that does not result in substantial changes to the pattern of constituencies across Birmingham. We recognise the community identity evidence received, and that our initial proposals divided communities. We acknowledge that a pattern of constituencies in this part of Birmingham needs to cross the M6 in order to propose a pattern of constituencies within the permitted electorate range. Furthermore, the Perry Barr ward already crosses the M6 and has a shared ward boundary – along Brookvale Road – with the Brookvale part of Stockland Green ward. We therefore consider a constituency that crosses the M6 at this point is suitable. Furthermore, we consider that splitting the Stockland Green ward between constituencies allows a better reflection of communities in this and other parts of the city (which would have to be changed under a whole ward pattern of constituencies). On balance, we therefore accept the recommendation of the Assistant Commissioners, and propose to adopt the Conservative Party counter-proposal for north Birmingham, including a split of the Stockland Green Ward, that would transfer polling districts STG-5, STG-6 and STG-7 to a revised Perry Barr constituency.

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