Derbyshire council’s plan for electoral boundary changes moves closer despite opposition

Conservative-controlled Derbyshire County Council has paved the way to submit proposed changes to its electoral boundaries – which could see divisions and councillors in Labour-dominated Chesterfield reduced by one and the number of Conservative-dominated South Derbyshire divisions and councillors increased by one.
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County councillors voted by a majority at a Full Council meeting on March 28, in favour of presenting its plans to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England as part of a Derbyshire Electoral Boundary Review with 73 councillors voting in favour of the proposed changes and 27 councillors – including minority group Labour councillors – voting against the plans.

A council spokesperson stated: “Approval of the council’s response to the LGBCE Draft Divisional Arrangements Proposals for Derbyshire Submission document will support greater electoral parity, whilst enabling fair and equal representation across the county for the future electorate and also maintaining and strengthening community ties and identities.”

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However, Conservative-led Derbyshire County Council’s proposed changes could potentially put the Labour Group at a disadvantage and the Conservative Group at an advantage regarding the current political landscape concerning the different parties and Labour Group Leader, Cllr Joan Dixon, said ‘there is no surprise the Labour Group will be voting against this’.

Pictured Is Derbyshire County Council Leader, Councillor Barry LewisPictured Is Derbyshire County Council Leader, Councillor Barry Lewis
Pictured Is Derbyshire County Council Leader, Councillor Barry Lewis

The Commission proposals – as requested by the county council – are for 64 single-member electoral divisions instead of 61 with each represented by one councillor aimed at ensuring all the county councillors will represent around the same number of people, according to the council.

If finally agreed upon, the number of county councillors would remain the same at 64, because the commission – as requested by the county council – is proposing that each division has only a single councillor replacing the current arrangement of 61 electoral divisions represented by 64 councillors including three two-member divisions.

And significantly, as part of these proposals, Labour-dominated Chesterfield could lose a councillor if it is agreed that one of its current nine electoral divisions should be scrapped, and South Derbyshire – a Conservative stronghold – could gain a councillor if it is agreed that its current eight divisions are increased by one.

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Currently, Chesterfield has six Labour county councillors and three Liberal Democrat county councillors, and South Derbyshire has seven Conservative county councillors and one Labour county councillor.

Chesterfield’s current nine county electoral divisions include: Birdholme (Lab); Boythorpe and Brampton South (Lab); Brimington (Lab); Loundsley Green and Newbold (Lib Dem); Spire (Lab); St Mary’s (Lab); Staveley (Lab); Staveley North and Whittington (Lib Dem); And Walton and West (Lib Dem).

South Derbyshire’s current eight county electoral divisions include: Aston (Con); Etwall and Repton (Con); Hilton (Con); Linton (Con); Melbourne (Con); Swadlincote Central (Con); Swadlincote North (Con); And Swadlincote South (Lab).

After a 12-year gap since the previous Electoral Division Boundary Review, the council approved in July, 2023, a recommendation that from May 2025 the county should be represented by 64 single-member divisions.

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Forecasts approved by the LGBCE predict a nine per cent increase in the electorate to 679,518 by 2029 and based on the current council size of 64 this will mean an average 10,617 electorate per councillor.

The Conservative-controlled council has stated Chesterfield’s nine electoral divisions should be reduced from nine to eight – with one less councillor – to reflect a decrease in population, and that South Derbyshire’s eight divisions should be increased from eight to nine – with one more councillor – reflecting the growth in population in that area.

It has argued the removal of the three two-member divisions, the removal of one electoral division from Chesterfield, and the addition of one electoral division in South Derbyshire, should create fair representation in terms of the elector-to-councillor ratio and this should increase stability until the next review.

There is also a proposal under consideration, according to the council, for a revised division pattern in Bolsover – currently held by Labour county councillors Joan Dixon for Bolsover South and Mick Yates for Bolsover North – to avoid a split in the town centre.

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A public consultation which started on January 23 and comes to an end on April 1 has been gathering views on the proposed boundaries, names, locations and councillor numbers and the LGBCE’s final recommendations on the electoral division boundaries are expected to be released on July 2 although further consultation may be required before any final decisions.

Council Managing Director Emma Alexander told the council meeting a considerable amount of work has already been undertaken in an effort ‘to ensure electoral parity’.

The council stated if the proposed changes are accepted by the LGBCE they could come into force with a new electoral arrangement from May 2025 onwards after Parliamentary approval with the number of councillors remaining the same but the new map creating a similar number of people in each division reflecting the identity and interests of communities.

Council Leader, Cllr Barry Lewis, has said that there has been a growth in population in some areas and a decrease in others which means the LGBCE felt Derbyshire county’s electoral division boundaries needed to be considered.

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A council spokesperson added: “After the end of the formal review process, the LGBCEwill seek formal Parliamentary approval of their final recommendations at the latter end of 2024 and once approved, will notify the council’s Managing Director and key officers.

“The LGBCE will also inform the electoral officers from district and borough councils of the statutory instruments and powers to enact the changes to polling districts, parishes and electoral divisions by May 2025.”