Thousands of new residents have moved in to Wandsworth in recent years, especially in Nine Elms – which means that a little-known organisation called the Local Government Boundary Commission has been called in to review the constituencies (also known as wards) covered by our various local councillors to make sure they’re still fair. They’ve looked at the distribution of people (both now, and in future forecasts) to try and define areas that are proportionally right for two or three councillors (so that the number of ‘voters per councillor’ is roughly the same wherever you live, at around 4,200 each). Wherever possible they try and make sensible areas with natural or logical boundaries – both in terms of infrastructure (big railways without many crossings, hard-to-cross roads, etc) and ‘communities’ (a more loosely defined concept of what is a natural ‘ares’ whose residents probably have common issues and concerns. It’s really quite a juggling act, that never really keeps everyone happy.
The proposed new arrangements that they are consulting on eliminate the old Shaftesbury ward (which had three councillors covering both the north and south of Lavender Hill, who as of the last election are all Conservative – Hugh Byrne, Jonathan Cook and Guy Senior).
They will instead create a new “Queenstown and Shaftesbury” ward, with three-councillors covering a patch running north of Lavender Hill. This would include all of the Shaftesbury estate and the Queenstown Road diamond – a natural grouping – but it would be a rather unusual beast as it would also encompass the much-further-flung Savona and Patmore estates, that don’t have any direct road connection to the bulk of the ward! This seems odd – but when you think about the odd shape of Wandsworth, there’s not necessarily a better way to do it, bearing in mind that there’s been a deliberate attempt to group the ‘new’ flats in nine Elms together. It’s hard to say where this ward will sit politically – we understand the Savona and Patmore estates are (at least traditionally) a Labour stronghold, while Shaftesbury and the Diamond are mixed with a slim Conservative majority.
The Boundaries Commission are also proposing a two-councillor “Lavender” ward (the smaller area south, including the station itself and St Johns Road). This is a logical grouping, and is likely to be a mixed but mainly Conservative ward. Mossbury Road was sensibly added to this ward, rather than Queenstown & Shaftesbury, at the specific suggestion of the Clapham Junction Action group. Curiously the site of Lidl and Boots has been carefully excluded; this won’t have any effect now but in the medium term there are plans to redevelop Boots to build flats, whose residents would share councillors with the Winstanley area.
The way you lay out the wards can have a big effect on who wins more seats – which is why the local political parties always feed in detailed comments on these proposals. As a political party you ideally design them to have about 40% of the people you reckon are most likely to vote for your rivals in every ward, just low enough so that you can comfortably win every time – or if that’s not possible, the next best thing is to try to bundle as close as possible to 100% of the rival voters in to just one ‘unwinnable’ ward, where you don’t bother campaigning – to then make sure you have the best run possible in the other wards nearby. The map to the right is an example of what this leads to in America (where the process is more politically driven, and where some very strange political districts can appear – this one was designed to have a majority of Hispanic voters). Luckily in our case the Boundaries Commission has to be politically independent, so constituencies tend to be sensible and ‘fair’.
If you’re really in to local politics, you can comment on these proposals – details are here.