Shake-up on cards

A RADICAL shake-up in Parliamentary constituency boundaries could spell major changes for Morpeth and Ponteland.

The Boundary Commission for England has published initial proposals for changes to constituencies across the country that will see the number reduced from 533 to 502.

In Northumberland the proposals would put Morpeth, which is currently represented by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, into a new Berwick and Morpeth constituency, which would also take in Ponteland East from Hexham.

Hexham would become the largest constituency in England, taking in Chopwell and Rowlands Gill, Crawcrook and Greenside and Ryton, Crookhill and Stella.

And the separate Blyth Valley and Wansbeck constituencies would disappear, with a new Blyth and Ashington area formed and Cramlington joining Newcastle Upon Tyne North.

However, the county’s existing MPs are not happy with the plans.

Mr Lavery said: “I think it’s a mixed bag for Northumberland. We would lose one seat which is very important to us.

“The way in which boundaries have been carved up supports the Conservatives and it will hit us worse than any other party, but there is time for consultation and public hearings for people to put their views forward and possibly change things.”

He added: “The people of Morpeth have been absolutely fantastic, so losing Morpeth would be a sad day for me, but what happens happens. It’s important to remember that this is not for another three-and-a-half years, and we have to make sure we do our best for those we are representing now.”

Hexham MP Guy Opperman said: “I fully support the idea of an equal number of voters for each seat and cutting the cost of politics.

“However, I am disappointed that the Boundary Commission has chosen at this initial stage to move the people of Haltwhistle, South Tynedale and Ponteland East from the current constituency.

“There seems to be little rationale in splitting the town of Ponteland and it is quite clear that residents of South Tynedale and Haltwhistle have much more affinity with Northumberland and the constituency of Hexham than the Barnard Castle constituency as is proposed.

“We will study the draft proposals in detail and make written representations to the Boundary Commission before the public meeting in November, and I would urge all local residents to do the same.”

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith also has concerns.

He said: “This is a major review and we are taking time to look at the proposals very carefully.

“Local councils and community organisations will be looking at what makes sense for them as community links seem to have been ignored in some of the new boundaries.”

The Boundary Commission says it has been constrained in drawing up the changes by a need for every constituency to have an electorate between 72,810 and 80,473.

A 12-week consultation on the draft plans is now under way and people can give their views online at www.boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk

There will also be a public hearing at Newcastle Civic Centre on Monday, November 14, and Tuesday, November 15.