Thursday 19 January 2012

Boundary Commission - back to the Middle Ages

The recently published recommendations of the Boundary Commission for Wales will probably not rob many people of their sleep, but buried in the detail there are some real oddities as the commissioners have struggled to try to find ways of getting more or less 74,000 electors into every constituency. A bit of squeezing here, a bit of pruning there, some rather desperate stuffing elsewhere seems to sum it up.

If you look at a map of county boundaries, you will see that Newcastle Emlyn sits in a wedge of territory shaped a bit like a parrot's beak jutting out into Ceredigion. Most, but not quite all, of this beak is now to be moved into a new-ish constituency comprising Ceredigion and a chunk of north Pembrokeshire.

In the neat world of political maps, it makes sense, but while the Westminster MP will change, residents of Newcastle Emlyn will still come under Carmarthenshire County Council and be represented in Cardiff by the Assembly Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

Our new MP, most likely Mark Williams, the sitting Lib-Dem MP for Ceredigion, will in future find that he has to deal with three separate local authorities, with Ceredigion generating the vast bulk of his workload, a smaller proportion will involve dealing with Pembrokeshire, and the remaining scraps will fall under Carmarthenshire. He should be warned now that his colleagues in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr have found that Carmarthenshire County Council generates a disproportionately large postbag, with complaints about the county's planning department featuring large.

The local authority boundaries of Wales are crying out for reform. There are far too many councils, and it would always have made more sense to put Newcastle Emlyn in with Ceredigion anyway. Geographically, culturally and economically the ties between our community and Ceredigion are much stronger than they are with Ammanford, Llanelli or even Carmarthen. But that will not be touched.

Local government reform along these lines would also have ended the totally daft arrangement whereby one half of our town comes under Carmarthenshire, and the other half, known as Adpar, comes under Ceredigion; a split which causes all sorts of ridiculous problems, ranging from waste management, planning and road maintenance to healthcare provision (it took a very long time to get a new NHS dentistry practice set up because of cross-border wrangling).

The net result for the electors of Newcastle Emlyn will be an almost medieval map of enclaves and exclaves, bizarre boundaries, and the real risk that we could end up as a sort of administrative afterthought stuck in a political no-man's land.

Apart from a bulging postbag, Mark Williams will also be less than pleased to hear that he is inheriting a Plaid Cymru stronghold.


Anonymous said...

I don't give Mark Williams MP for Ceredigion a cat in hell's chance at the next election, there will be such a venomous swing away from the LibDems everywhere.

When the changes go ahead, I'd put my money on the Conservatives winning the new constituency, unless Plaid gets its act together and votes in Leanne Wood as the new leader. (Elin Jones is bovine and blinkered, Simon Thomas is an election loser and both have too much political baggage).

Cenarth Ward will probably be irrelevant in all this, plus I think it might well be successful in extracting itself from the new constituency. After all, there's no mention in the new constituency name of Carmarthenshire and Cenarth is the only ward from the county to be included. What's the point of recognising its historic ties with Adpar for Parliamtary elections yet keeping them separate for everything else?

If Cenarth is to be included, I would demand that the new constituency be called "Ceredigion, Cenarth and North Pembrokeshire"

Cneifiwr said...

Some forthright views there. I'm not sure Ceredigion will go to the Tories, though. Are there any in Ceredigion? Sorry for fogetting to offer you a cuppa when you popped in, Anon.