What next for the boundary review?
So here we are, nearly halfway though the 2018 Review of UK Parliament constituency boundaries, having completed our initial consultation in December 2016 and, earlier this week, our secondary consultation (on the responses the earlier consultation generated). As Deputy Secretary to the Commission I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the review so far. All your comments – whether you support or oppose our initial proposals – will give us essential local evidence, and are fundamental to the process of delivering to Parliament robust recommendations for new boundaries. I’m delighted that we have received over 25,000 comments from members of the public, and even more pleased that the vast majority of these were submitted through our interactive consultation website, at www.bce2018.org.uk.
So what happens now? As I’m responsible for making sure that we keep to our timetable I have a close interest in making sure the next few months run as smoothly as possible! Having been in listening mode, our review teams now turn to the analytical part of their brains, and start to delve into the evidence that everyone has submitted about their local areas. We’ll be supporting our Assistant Commissioners in assessing where and how the initial proposals will need to be changed, based on the evidence you have given us. We’ll go through all the written representations and oral presentations from our public hearings, and work out where counter proposals produce a better outcome, having regard to all the statutory factors. In many areas more than one alternative approach has been proposed, so it can become a pretty tough job to find a solution that works for everyone, though we do try!
This analysis period will also see us carrying out site visits to ‘hotspot’ areas across England to really test the evidence that’s been presented to us, particularly in those areas where conflicting views have been put forward by consultation respondents: seeing something with your own eyes can often make things clearer than even the best map or plan.
Once the analysis is complete, our Assistant Commissioners will then make formal recommendations for any changes to the Boundary Commissioners. The newly-appointed Deputy Chair of the Commission, Mr Justice (Andrew) Nicol, alongside Commissioners David Elvin QC and Neil Pringle, will consider the recommendations and, once agreed, we’ll publish these as our revised proposals. Consultation on those revised proposals will be the last opportunity for public input to our process, before we draw up and submit our formal report and recommendations. I’ll be pushing the team to try to get the revised proposals published later this year, though if some areas prove more complex it’s possible we’ll publish and consult at the start of 2018. Either way, we’ll have consulted in time to make any final changes in light of that consultation and then submit our final recommendations during September 2018 (as the law specifies).
As the year progresses we’re likely to be able to make more announcements about the timetable for the rest of the 2018 Review; make sure you follow us here, on Twitter @bce2018, on Facebook, and of course on our consultation website www.bce2018.org.uk.