With a week to go until polling day in the Romsey County Council by-election, the campaign is in full swing, with leaflets once again plopping onto doormats, and party workers exercising their knuckles across the area. As I’ve recently rejoined the Lib Dems, I have also been out on the doorsteps, trying to encourage Romsey voters to support Nichola Martin – which you might want to bear in mind while reading the rest of this article. While Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens have all been running active campaigns, my impression is that the seat is likely to be a close-run thing between Labour and the Lib Dems – but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
One issue that has been featuring in Lib Dem literature in Romsey, particularly in the northern part of the seat, is proposed boundary changes. Plans are afoot to “redistrict” Cambridge, reducing the city from 14 to 12 County Councillors, and moving a lot of the seat boundaries around. In Romsey, the proposals would move a lot of local residents out of the seat, instead placing them in Abbey (which would be renamed as Barnwell). A couple of weeks ago, an article appeared on the Romsey Labour website about this issue. Here’s what it said:
Defend our Ward Boundaries against changes
Councillors Anna Smith and Dave Baigent supported by Zoe Moghadas are fighting to maintain the boundaries of Romsey as an independent and discrete ward in the City.
The Boundary Commission have now issued proposals that intend to increase the size of wards to 8000 and reduce the amount of county councillors.
This proposal if enacted will probably lead to a reduction in City Councillors along similar lines.
The article was illustrated by a charming photo of the Romsey Labour team holding up “I ♡ Mill Road” stickers. I posted a comment on the article which read as follows:
It was the Labour Group’s submission to the Boundary Commission that originally proposed removing the northern part of Romsey from the ward. The Commission’s proposals for Romsey are almost identical to the boundaries that the Labour Group suggested.
Here is the Labour Group’s submission (starting on page 5): http://www.lgbce.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/24508/PoliticalGroups-Combined-and-Linked-Cambridgeshire-2015-02-03.pdf
Here’s what it says about Romsey: “Romsey Division incorporates all the existing division minus those parts of northern Romsey absorbed into the new Barnwell Division, following the line of the existing traffic barriers. It is bounded by the railway in the west until that meets Hills Road at which point it is clearly then bounded in the south by Cherry Hinton Road, of which it retains only the north side. To the east it is bounded by, but does not include, Perne Road, Perne Avenue, and Gisborne Road. It does include Brooks Road and Brookside. The name Romsey is chosen in recognition of the historic consideration that Coleridge Division was originally created out of Romsey. Unlike the present Petersfield Division, Mill Road east of the railway serves as a community unifier. Residents in the existing Romsey and Coleridge divisions identify themselves as residents east of the railway and locate Mill Road as the central spine of their community. In particular, Mill Road serves as a key transport routé for Coleridge residents who access the road via Coleridge Road.”
Sadly, this article now seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the Romsey Labour website. It used to be here, and as I write you can still see it in Google’s cache here. I hope the Labour group have resolved any internal differences on this issue amicably.
Update (23 June): Romsey Labour have now un-deleted the article, which you can read here (with my comment intact). Meanwhile, Labour have accused the Lib Dems of hypocrisy after the Lib Dems produced some proposed adjustments to the Boundary Commission plans. I’m hoping to find time to do a longer blog post about this today or tomorrow – polling day in Romsey is on Thursday.