Boundaries that ignore 11,000 in Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace has long suffered from political boundaries that carve it up into multiple borough councils and Parliamentary constituencies, all based on an unfair and unrepresentative voting system. The Boundary Review could just compound these problems.

The Boundary Review is being run by the independent Boundary Commission for England. They’re not out to stitch things up, but the rules they were given will disenfranchise thousands of people in Crystal Palace.

The Commission are trying to devise 600 constituencies of equal size, give or take 5%. They are using the electoral register from 2015.

The result in Crystal Palace is some tweaks that leave us divided into three constituencies:

  • The council wards currently in the Dulwich & West Norwood and the Croydon North constituencies remain unchanged.
  • The Crystal Palace ward, part of Bromley council, will move into the Croydon North constituency, swapped with a Croydon ward – Shirley – which will move into the Beckenham constituency along with Penge.

You can see these changes for yourself on their website.

The ignored 11,000

One of the big problems with the review is that they use the number of people on the electoral roll in 2015.

First,  huge numbers of people registered since then for the Mayoral election and the EU referendum. They’re ignored.

But worse, many people aren’t registered to vote at all. We think they should still be counted, so MPs represent equally sized areas. If you’re young, poor and/or rent privately you’re much less likely to be registered to vote.

We’ve crunched the numbers. This table shows the Commission’s figure for the electoral roll, the Greater London Authority’s figure for the voting age population, and the percentage that we think is therefore going uncounted and ignored.

Constituency Electoral roll Voting age population Percentage ignored
Croydon North BC 77,793 100,745 23%
Dulwich and West Norwood BC 71,839 87,380 18%
Beckenham BC 74,538 84,199 11%

The differences are huge!

And here are the figures for the local wards in Crystal Palace:

Ward Electoral roll Voting age population Percentage ignored
Crystal Palace 7,783 10,625 27%
South Norwood 10,268 13,320 23%
Upper Norwood 10,068 12,683 21%
Gipsy Hill 9,064 10,785 16%
College 8,312 9,531 13%

One in four people in the Crystal Palace ward are ignored!

In total, over 11,000 voting age people around Crystal Palace are ignored by their numbers.

Leaving Crystal Palace overlooked again

We spoke against the proposals at a recent hearing in Bromley. We raised these wider concerns, but also pointed out that the proposal for the Crystal Palace ward could leave us overlooked again.

MPs are not accountable for the delivery of borough services, but they will inevitably tackle casework and constituency issues that are borough matters. The MP for Croydon North will focus his or her time on matters in Croydon, and is unlikely to pay as much attention to matters in their one ward in Bromley.

The Crystal Palace ward already suffers from multiple boundary issues. Around half the ward forms part of a wider area commonly known as Crystal Palace that spans five boroughs. There is already a strong feeling in the ward that the local council don’t pay the area enough attention, being a far-flung corner of the borough. This proposal won’t help. The other half of the ward would probably identify with the ward of Penge and Cator, which currently sits in both the same borough and the same Westminster constituency but is proposed to move into the Beckenham constituency. This proposal would cut the area in two.

We would propose that the wards of Shirley and Crystal Palace are simply swapped around to create more geographically coherent constituencies. Shirley moves into Croydon North; Crystal Palace into Beckenham.

The problem with our proposal is that the Commission’s figures suggest that the Shirley ward has 2,534 more voters than Crystal Palace. The swap would make Croydon North too large, taking it over the the 5% threshold mentioned earlier.

We looked at the Greater London Authority’s data and found that the voting age population (i.e. everyone 18 and older) of Shirley is only 539 people larger than Crystal Palace. That’s because, by our estimates, 92% of people in Shirley are on the electoral roll compared to just 73% in Crystal Palace!

We hope they take this into account.

Making a bad system worse

These boundary changes will leave some MPs representing far fewer people than others. It’s not representative.

But of course we know that the First Past the Post voting system already fails to represent the political views of the people around Crystal Palace.

This chart shows the votes in the last full local elections. With 55% of the vote, Labour took 100% of the council seats. The 11% of people who voted Green got no representation at all.

elections_2014_local

Compare this with the London Assembly elections held earlier this year.

Those elections use a form of proportional representation. The Green Party won 8% of the votes across London, and got 8% of the seats. So we have Sian Berry and Caroline Russell representing our views.

This is why we also told the Boundary Commission that their review was flawed.

It uses an out-of-date electoral register that ignores thousands of people, and will set up constituencies that will give no representation to the views of countless thousands more.

This is why the Green Party is supporting the Make Votes Matter campaign, to get Proportional Representation for Parliament just like we have for the London Assembly.

Sign the petition here.