Border changes will bring political change to Cumbria
Proposals by the Boundary Commission for England to change the boundaries of several parliamentary constituencies may have an effect on Cumbria.
Under the changes, the county would have six MPs – but Westmorland and Lonsdale would be replaced by Morecambe and South Lakeland, incorporating parts of Lancashire, while Penrith and the border would be replaced by Westmorland and Eden.
In addition, Windermere and Coniston would be part of Copeland and the Western Lakes. Dalston and Brugh-by-Sands would be part of the Workington constituency, which would extend to the boundaries of Carlisle.
A map of the changes can be viewed online.
Dalston Parish Council President Cllr Ann Byers was not happy with the proposals.
She said: “We would be in Allerdale – it’s a surprise.
“To be honest I guess the majority of people here haven’t seen it yet, it’s very new. We’ll have to wait and see what their reaction will be.
“Personally, I would like to stay with Carlisle. We’re pretty close to Carlisle, it’s only five miles.
“It’s done on the population, but while they’re doing this, why don’t they reduce the number of MPs? Why do we need 650?
“You watch the Prime Minister’s questions and they never answer a question. We had question time here with David Dimbleby, and then I asked him why he never asked politicians to answer a question.
“He said we would be there all day for a politician on an issue!”
The proposed changes came at the same time that Cumbria’s local government could also be shaken.
There are currently proposals to create one or two unitary authorities in the county, as opposed to the current two-tier configuration.
Ms Byers added: “With all this local government reorganization going on, we just don’t know what’s going to happen.
“The councils can’t agree on this, so we don’t stand a chance. I would just like them to take the policy out of it.
Former Carlisle MP Eric Martlew questioned the need for these changes.
He said, “My point of view is that it is not necessary. It creates anomalies and will cause disruption among sitting MPs, and it distracts ministers from running the country.
“If you want to equalize it, then I guess there is nothing else you can do – but every time you do that, it creates anomalies.
“The one I can think of is Carlisle Racecourse which will be in Workington!” And Dalston – I worked there for years, and it is indeed a suburb of Carlisle.
“It’s all well and good to bring Whitehaven and Windermere together, but you’re trying to get from Whitehaven to Windermere.”
Mr Martlew also believed it could signal an early general election in 2023.
Elsewhere in Cumbria, the main impact could potentially be seen in the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency, a Liberal Democrat stronghold held by former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron MP, which will be split and mixed with parts of the Penrith constituency and the border, a safe seat for the Conservative Party, held by Dr Neil Hudson MP.
The boundary proposal would also see Windermere and Ambleside – currently in Westmorland and Lonsdale – part of a “Copeland and the Western Lakes” constituency.
Westmoreland and Lonsdale have long been a Liberal Democrat stronghold, but the changes would divide the seat and endanger the party’s chances of holding it in the future.
Area MP Tim Farron said: “Only someone who has never been to Cumbria would draw a line that would put Windermere with Whitehaven and Kirkby Lonsdale with Alston!”
“But as ridiculous as these proposals are, they are only draft proposals and whatever seats are ultimately agreed, we will fight and we will fight to win. We’ve won Westmorland five times against all odds so far, so we’ll do it again.
Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, said: “I will meet with ministers to discuss opportunities especially around agriculture and tourism, transport and digital connectivity with immediate effect. However, the limits are far from being set in stone.
“An eight week written consultation period on the initial proposals will now begin which will close in early August. There will be a second six-week consultation period that will include public hearings early next year. The Commission will then decide whether or not to revise its initial proposals.
The changes were proposed by the Boundary Commission for England, an independent and impartial non-ministerial public body. The group periodically reviews the boundaries of all parliamentary constituencies in England and is currently conducting a review based on the legislative rules updated by Parliament in 2020.
In its review of the Northwest, the commission assigned 73 ridings to the region, two less than the current number.
Only 10 constituencies would remain unchanged, while three would be amended to realign with the new boundaries of local government quarters.
The review reads: “As it was not always possible to assign whole numbers of constituencies to individual counties, we have grouped some county councils and areas of unitary authority into sub-regions. The number of constituencies allocated to each sub-region is determined by the combined electorate of the local communities they contain.
“Therefore, it was necessary to propose certain constituencies that cross the borders of counties or unitary authorities, although we have sought to keep these crossings to a minimum.
“It was necessary to propose a constituency that crosses the county border between Cumbria and Lancashire. We therefore propose that the current electoral district of Morecambe and Lunesdale extend north across the county line into the district of South Lakeland. ”
The new rules which require that each recommended constituency must have an electorate that is no less than 69,724 and no more than 77,062.
Final recommendations will not be made until 2023.
Tuesday, eight weeks of consultation with the public, giving residents the opportunity to express themselves, to be completed online.