Major changes could be on the way for Ribble Valley as a Parliamentary Constituency.
Lancashire could lose two Parliamentary seats following the enactment of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 and Ribble Valley should prepare for changes that will inevitiatably come when the Boundary Commission reduces the number of Parliamentary seats from 650 to 600 under the next Parliamentary boundary review.
England will be reduced by 31 Parliamentary constituencies to 502, Wales loses 10 and Scotland seven. Under the new Act, redistribution will be conducted on a regional basis and the North West Region has been allocated 68 seats – a reduction of seven.
Counties, as in the past, will be the main building blocks and although it is possible for a constituency to cross county boundaries, it is unlikely to cross regional ones.
Under the new rules, parity is the main criteria, with a variation of only 5% on either side. This means there will be a quota for each constituency of 76,641 voters with the maximum of 80,473 and a minimum of 72,810. On these numbers Blackpool South (currently with 64,081 voters), Blackpool and Cleveleys (66,187), Burnley (67,003), Hyndburn (69,617), Chorley (66,504), Fylde (66,504), Pendle (66,735), Preston (61,025), Wyre and Preston North (71,612) are all too small to meet the new criteria.
In my view, the number of seats in Lancashire will be reduced definitely by one and possibly by two, from 16 to 14, so this means some constituencies as we know them could disappear. There will be a consequent reorganisation of others, possibly involving changes in East Lancashire as well as on the Fylde coast.
At present the Ribble Valley consitituency, consisting of the whole of Ribble Valley Borough and 31,000 South Ribble voters, is the largest in Lancashire, with 77,437 electors, and the only one to meet the new criteria, but this will prove irrelevant when it comes the major reorganisiation necessary for the rest of the county to meet the new rules.
The Boundary Commission’s proposals for the new boundaries will be issued in September and there will be a 12-week public consultation, followed by a two-day public hearing where objections can be raised. The Boundary Commission will report to Parliament in 2013 with a view to finalising the new boundaries in the Summer of 2013, ready for the next General Election.
We cannot rule out that Ribble Valley constituency will be made the subject of big boundary changes. If these involve division of the Ribble Valley Borough, then parish, town and borough councils should be ready to oppose sany such proposals and argue the case in the public hearing.
There are strong reasons – traditional, community and geographical – for keeping the Ribble Valley Borough together in one parliamentary constituency.