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Parliamentary boundary plans for Cumbria and Lancashire unveiled
A LEADING Liberal Democrat MP has warned plans to re-draw Cumbria’s parliamentary boundaries would not be supported by his party.
MP for Westmorland and Londale Tim Farron said he was ‘happy’ with the Boundary Commission’s revised proposals that were unveiled on Tuesday.
If given the go-ahead, they would see his constituency enlarged to include Appleby and Kirkby Stephen, currently in Penrith and The Border. But the Liberal Democrat President predicted his fellow MPs would not vote in favour of the changes, in response to the Lords Reform opposition from the Tories.
“Boundary changes and the Lords Reform were a coalition pact, but the Tories chose not to back Lords Reform,” he said. “The fact that one fell means that the other must fall with it. “It will not pass through Parliament.”
It also seems unlikely that the changes will be endorsed by the Labour Party.
John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “Ministers should be ashamed of the way they are continuing to pour public money into this rigged boundaries fiasco after one half of the coalition has already said it won't vote through the proposals.
“Many communities already have a pretty low opinion of grubby deals in Westminster and they won't appreciate being jerked around like this.”
Alongside the northward extension of Westmorland and Lonsdale, the re-drafted plans would see Penrith and The Border reconfigured to Penrith and Solway.
MP for the constituency, Conservative Rory Stewart, said: “It personally saddens me because I will lose my constituents in The Border, and I have built up relationships with them.”
Five constituencies will be left in Cumbria – Copeland, Barrow-in-Furness, Westmorland and Lonsdale, Penrith and Solway and Carlisle – with Workington being lost.
In Lancashire, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale David Morris said he was ‘happy’ to see no change to the original plans, which moved the Lower Lune Valley into his constituency.
He said: “Historically this was part of Morecambe and Lunesdale and I am pleased that the commission has taken into consideration the history of the area and its communities.”
The changes come as part of an effort to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament by 50 to 600, and will see constituencies decrease from 533 to 502 nationwide to ensure each area has a similar number of electors.
Initial proposals were released in September 2011, but were met with opposition from Cumbrian’s during public consultation.
Mr Farron described them as ‘crackers’, and said the Commission had ‘ignored the topography of the county’.
Under the plans Kendal would have been joined with Penrith, Copeland with Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and the Lyth Valley, and Barrow with Grange, Cartmel and Holker.
Mr Stewart said the new ideas were more ‘sensible’.
“The original plans put the divide between West and East Cumbria in the wrong place, but the new ones are much more sensible geographically and politically,” he said.
“They have come up with something that all political parties should support – it is relatively fair to all.”
The Commission has now launched an eight-week public consultation. Visit consultation.boundary commissionforengland.independent.gov.uk for information.