Stoke-on-Trent would lose MP in boundary reform
VOTERS in Stoke-on-Trent will lose an MP and Tristram Hunt's seat will disappear under new plans to redraw the region's political landscape.
The Boundary Commission has revealed its final strategy to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies in England from 533 to 502.
But city MPs today branded the reforms a "debacle" – because opposition from within the Government means the £12 million plan is unlikely to ever be approved.
Several disputed plans from the first wave of proposals have been scrapped.
They included proposals to divide Paul Farrelly's Newcastle seat between two new constituencies – Newcastle and Stone and Kidsgrove and Tunstall.
Other changes rejected include splitting Burslem between two constituencies.
The commission's final recommendations would cut the number of MPs in Staffordshire from 12 to 11, reducing Stoke-on-Trent to two MPs. Its plans include:
Creating a new West Staffordshire constituency covering southern parts of the city like Trentham, Hanford and Meir with Bill Cash's Stone and western Newcastle;
Carving Tristram Hunt's Stoke-on-Trent Central seat between the two remaining city seats covering the north and south;
Reuniting the Staffordshire Moorlands under a single MP and keeping the Newcastle seat broadly in line with borough council boundaries.
The national reduction in seats, cutting the total number of MPs from 650 to 600, was intended to create constituencies of roughly equal size. It was also expected to hand the Conservatives a 20-seat boost at the 2015 General election. But the plans are already in jeopardy, even though a new two-month consultation only begins today.
The Tories' Coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have pledged to vote against the changes when they reach the Commons next year – meaning the changes will not have enough support to become law.
They withdrew support after plans to reform the House of Lords, a Lib-Dem pre-election pledge, collapsed amid a Tory backbench rebellion.
Some Tories are pinning their hopes on winning over the cash-strapped Lib Dems with the promise of party funding reforms, which would boost the amount of public money going to the third biggest party.
Tristram Hunt, whose Stoke-on-Trent Central seat is now at risk, said Labour will study the proposals in depth and submit an alternative. He said: "Creating the seat of West Staffordshire is truly bizarre linking up Meir with rural Staffordshire villages would create a very strange seat.
"It's very difficult to see their reasoning and very difficult to understand how they can swing so totally away from the original proposals they thought were so incredible.
"The proposals have very little respect for cultural or historic boundaries."
Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said: "I would always say that anybody who wanted to cut Burslem in half needed their head examining. I welcome the fact that it has been recognised as one. But the whole thing is a fiasco."
The Boundary Commission said it made the changes because "feelings ran high" on its original proposals.
It added: "Stoke-on-Trent is too small to include three whole constituencies and it is clear the boundaries here will have to undergo significant change."