England’s Local Government Boundary Commission (LGBCE) has proposed big changes to Reading’s electoral wards. The town’s residents have until 13 April to give their opinion before the LGBCE present their final recommendation on 1 September. If they go ahead, the boundary changes will affect all wards in Reading except Park.
The LGBCE conducted the review because the number of electors in five of Reading’s 16 wards including Church, Redlands and Whitley, was more than 10% above or below the the average for the borough.
(December 2017) /December 2018
|% above or below|
Reading ward average in (2017)/2018
|Reading ward average||(7329)/7250|
|Reading total electorate||(112362)/ 111165|
Table: The three south and east Reading wards whose total electorate deviate by more than 10% from the Reading average, and overall numbers for Reading (source: 15 July 2019 policy committee papers and other RBC figures).
The boundary recommendations also make provision for expected changes in the number of electors within wards. LGBCE say:
When the number of electors per councillor in a ward is within 10% of the average for the authority, we refer to the ward as having ‘good electoral equality’. All of our proposed wards for Reading will have good electoral equality by 2025.
These recommendations must meet three statutory criteria:
- an equality of representation,
- a reflection of community interests and identities,
- effective and convenient local government.
The commission took responses received to the first consultation in Autumn 2019 into account, and also visited Reading to help make decisions between alternative possibilities.
Reading Borough Council (RBC) proposed a new western boundary for Katesgrove following the A33 rather than the Kennet. The LGBCE say that they visited the area and felt that the A33 was the stronger boundary, adding:
we would be interested in hearing from local views in relation to our proposed draft recommendations for this area. In particular, we would like to know opinions on the proposed ward name change [Minster ward may be renamed Coley ward], as well as our proposed warding arrangements for the Temple Place area.
Church, Redlands and Whitley wards
The boundaries of Church, Redlands and Whitley wards may all change significantly and LGBCE received the largest number of residents’ comments relating to these wards. Many of Reading’s new housing developments are being built in south west Reading and so the number of electors is set to increase significantly here.
The LGBCE rejected a resident’s suggestion that there should be a new ward called ‘Southside’ for Kennet Island and Green Park. The LGBCE preferred a uniform arrangement of three councillor wards, and a ward with good electoral quality could not in any case be created:
we examined whether it was possible to create this new ward, but we could not create a ward with good electoral equality which could house the new developments in their entirety, even as a one- or two-councillor ward.
The proposed boundary between Church and Whitley wards follows Basingstoke Road south of the junction with Long Barn Lane as far as Hartland Road. Redlands ward extends south as far as Wellington Avenue, taking in more of Whiteknights campus.
The commission said that they would particularly welcome comments on this area because:
we consider our proposed Church, Redlands and Whitley wards to reflect community identities, given the need to ensure good electoral equality, and take account of the significant housing developments that will be constructed over the next five years. Given that we have largely developed our own proposals for this area, we would particularly welcome comments on them during this current consultation.
Councillors and elections
The LGBCE accepted RBC’s proposal to increase the number of borough councillors from the current 46 to 48. The first time any new ward boundaries would take effect would be in 2022, when all councillor seats in Reading will be up for election.
The proposals could mean that Katesgrove and Church wards are split between the existing Reading East and Reading West parliamentary constituencies. Currently, these two constituencies follow ward boundaries. The LGBCE does not take parliamentary boundaries into account when making their recommendations.
You can comment on LGBCE’s recommendations by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to:
Review Officer (Reading)
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England
50 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0TL
The deadline is 13 April 2020.