Expanded boundary criticised

FURIOUS councillors have hit out at plans to include a string of East Durham villages within the Hartlepool parliamentary constituency.

Draft proposals from the Boundary Commission for England, responsible for setting political constituencies, had initially recommended that the town be joined by the Billingham North ward as part of a consultation on reducing the number of constituencies from 533 to 502.

But that idea has been scrapped and instead, following calls from all three major parties at regional level, revised changes published yesterday are recommending that the Hartlepool constituency is to include the Blackhall ward.

However, the proposals could be on the back-burner for a long time as they face stiff opposition from the Liberal Democrats – angered by Tory backbench rejection of House of Lords reform plans – vowing to vote against the changes.

But if approved, it would mean Blackhall Rocks, Blackhall Colliery, the Hesledens, Station Town and Hutton Henry would join the Hartlepool constituency and town MP Iain Wright would be their representative in Parliament, rather than Grahame Morris, who represents Easington.

Durham County Councillors for the Blackhall ward Rob Crute and Alan Cox blasted the plans.

Coun Crute said: “It doesn’t make sense to me. We had strong community representation saying we don’t want this revision of boundaries and it shouldn’t happen.

“Yet the Boundary Commission looked at it and threw it away.”

Coun Cox added: “They will say it’s to balance the boundaries out but I think it’s a bad move as far as Blackhall is concerned.

“It will probably help Iain Wright get more Labour votes as Easington is a profoundly safe Labour seat.”

But Mr Wright said: “I think it’s still early days and it’s still a question of Government being able to carry the vote in the House of Commons as my understanding is that the Liberal Democrats and other parties will not support what the Government plans to do with this.

“The feeling is that the boundary proposals are dead and will not be brought forward but we will wait and see what happens.”

Easington MP Mr Morris said: “The Government should scrap these changes now, instead of pressing ahead with months of needless planning, at a cost to the taxpayer of £12m, for proposals that are unlikely to see the light of day.”

People have until December 10 to comment on the proposals by visiting http://consultation.boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/static/index.html