Pendle boundary to remain unchanged

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to split up the Pendle parliamentary constituency have been scrapped.

The Boundary Commission published the proposals in September last year as part of a shake-up of existing constituencies and reducing their numbers from 650 to 600.

But on Tuesday, it was announced the original plans had been axed and revised boundaries had been drawn up instead.

If the original changes had gone ahead, West Craven would have been added to a revised Ribble Valley seat.

And the rest of Pendle would have been added to part of the current Burnley constituency in a seat named Burnley North and Nelson.

Instead, the Commission is proposing to retain Pendle in its entirety with the rural wards of Briercliffe and Cliviger with Worsthorne from Burnley added to it.

There would be 75,713 electors, in line with Government targets to create seats with roughly the same number of voters.

The commission’s proposals last year generated lots of concern, with over 2,000 Pendle residents writing to the Boundary Commission to object to the constituency being broken up.

A good number attended a hearing in Preston to make their views known.

People in West Craven argued the case for Barnoldswick, Earby and the surrounding villages remaining within Pendle, while Colne residents objected that their town had no identity with the proposed constituency name.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “I am delighted the Boundary Commission has seen sense and is proposing Pendle is kept together.

“The House of Commons ought to be smaller, it ought to be less expensive and MPs ought to represent a similar number of people. That is what is in the Coalition Agreement. We will be putting that argument to Parliament and I think the other parties should come forward and vote for these proposals.”

Pendle Council’s Conservative leader Coun. Joe Cooney said: “Since Pendle was created, it has developed its own identity and has no doubt benefited from having one MP covering all 20 Pendle Council wards.

“While each town and village has its own different feel and characteristics, most people living in Pendle will also work, shop and go out frequently within the borough.

“A Burnley North and Nelson seat or including places like Earby in Ribble Valley would have been artificial creations that would not reflect local employment, trade or social patterns. I am very pleased with the revised proposals.”

The council’s Labour group leader, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, said: “Pendle Labour Party voted for Pendle to be kept together as far as possible and welcomes the news that the Boundary Commission has revised its original proposals.

“Although the Commission was obliged to carry on with its work and produce these recommendations, it has been known for some time the Liberal Democrats will not allow the boundary changes to be passed into legislation because the backwoodsmen in the Conservative Parliamentary party voted down the Lib Dem proposals for reforming the House of Lords.

“So in effect, the Commission is just going through the motions and we are ending up with another Tory-Lib Dem shambles. This wouldn’t matter so much if it hadn’t been at the expense of the taxpayer, just like the chaos of the North West rail franchise.

“Local Tories are cock-a-hoop, of course, because the Commission’s original proposals for Pendle had meant the proposed Burnley North and Nelson constituency would have included a number of Labour wards in Burnley, making Andrew Stephenson’s seat much less safe than in 2010.

“The whole process has been completely anti-democratic as it has delayed the selection of opposition candidates for parliamentary constituencies by years.

“Pendle voters should remember Andrew Stephenson had nearly four years to ‘work the constituency’ before 2010, supported by vastly more funding than other parties had available. This included cash from the notorious Lord Ashcroft who, as far as we know, still hasn’t met the tax obligations required of him when he was given his peerage by the then Tory boss, William Hague.”

For the Liberal Democrats, group leader Coun. John David said: “I am delighted that we are to keep the Pendle name andc for the whole of the constituency to be kept intact.

“If there were to be an increase in voters we had different proposals but it is an exercise that is doomed to failure because it will not get through Parliament.

“The cost has already been enormous and it should be stopped before more cash is wasted.”

The Commission’s proposals will now go out for furtther consultation. People have until December 10th to make their views known by writing to the Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ.