Hundreds file furious objections to Havering boundary change scheme
- Credit: Archant
Havering residents have filed hundreds of objections over plans to change electoral boundaries in the borough.
The public body responsible for redrawing the borough’s wards said it had received 539 comments from the public – the most responses to any boundary change consultation in the last two years.
A decision must now be taken on whether new proposals should be drawn up and put to another consultation.
An analysis by the Romford Recorder found only around five per cent of responses were completely supportive of the current proposals.
Conversely, over a quarter of respondents said they believed some proposals may have been designed to manipulate future elections.
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Many of those lived in Corbets Tey village.
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One proposal being considered by the Local Government Boundaries Commission for England (LGBCE) is to reduce Upminster ward and cut it from three councillors to two.
Corbets Tey would be split in two. Part would remain in Upminster, whilst part would be added to Rainham and Wennington ward - which would not be given any extra council seats.
The suggestion provoked more than 200 objections from Corbets Tey residents, who branded it “mad”, “crazy”, “absurd”, “preposterous” and “ludicrous”.
Residents said the village was “on the doorstep” of Upminster but did not even have a direct transport link to Rainham. One said Rainham was so far from their home that if they travelled the same distance in another direction they would end up in Dagenham.
“I am one mile from Upminster station and 4.8 miles from Rainham station,” wrote one respondent.
Villagers said they feared their votes would become worthless if they were tacked onto a large, distant area like Rainham. A number said that if the plan went ahead, they would simply stop voting in local elections.
“Why would a councillor who is situated 4.5 miles from my home have an interest in issues which face me as a resident of Upminster?” wrote one.
Another said: “I feel I will be silenced in my local community and not able to have redress through the election. This proposal is suggesting that I have a voice in an area that I do not live in.”
A number of Corbets Tey respondents said they believed they were being deliberately disenfranchised.
One wrote that they believed the plan was to “remove part of the electorate who in recent years have returned Resident Association representatives... The number of Resident Association representatives would be reduced, thus giving the Conservative party a larger majority at the Town Hall.”
A report by the LGBCE said it was The Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Association who had suggested adding Corbets Tey to Rainham and Wennington.
Corbets Tey residents weren’t the only ones who suspected proposals were politically motivated.
Concerns about “gerrymandering” - manipulating populations to influence election results – were also raised by residents in Elm Park and Hacton wards.
The two wards have six combined seats on Havering Council, five of which are occupied by Resident Association councillors - but under the proposals, each ward would lose one seat.
Meanwhile, Romford Town, which currently has three Conservative councillors, would be split into two wards – a north and south – and given two seats each.
Almost 150 respondents voiced fears that there were ulterior motives behind some of the plans. Several called for the boundary review to be suspended, pending an independent investigation.
Dozens cited a Romford Recorder investigation which revealed council leader Damian White had been secretly recorded claiming he had been allowed to “influence” the council’s LGBCE submission, to make it “really politically advantageous”.
The revelation sparked a series of complaints, but Conservative councillors threw them out last month on a technicality and blocked an investigation, in defiance of expert advice.
“We need a proper, independent person to investigate this affair,” one resident told the LGBCE.
Others wrote that the review should be “halted” or “put on hold” until the matter had been properly scrutinised.
“These allegations are in the public forum and the boundary commission are aware of them and, in my view, should ensure they are investigated,” one respondent said.
Cllr White has denied any wrongdoing and Havering Council has strenuously denied the claims he made on the recording. New complaints are pending against two councillors and two civil servants.
The LGBCE has three options.
The first is to make no alterations based on residents’ feedback.
The second is to make some alterations and then just publish its final recommendations.
The third is to make alterations and then hold another consultation.
The body said it would only hold a further consultation if it made “significant changes” and had “insufficient evidence” of the community’s views.
A decision will be made in mid-December and announced in January.