Tories accused of ‘gerrymandering’ Crawley’s county council divisions

Labour group leader Sue Mullins

Labour group leader Sue Mullins

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Accusations of Tory ‘gerrymandering’ of Crawley’s county council boundaries have been restated by Labour councillors.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is reconsulting on future West Sussex County Council divisions within in the town.

But Cllr Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East), leader of the Labour group, said she did not understand why the consultation had been reopened although they had been told it was because of a ‘large number of letters from residents’.

But on the website of the 17 comments, five were from local Conservative councillors, along with responses from a Labour councillor, the Conservative association, the Crawley Conservative group, another from Crawley’s MP, the wife of a Conservative councillor, one ex-Conservative councillor, and five residents complaining about changes in West Green.

At a WSCC full council meeting late last month, Cllr Mullins said: “This whole exercise seems to be aimed towards gerrymandering the boundaries in Crawley, and I will use that word gerrymander again, in order to improve the prospects of one political group, although that does not seem quite so certain since the results of the local elections in May.”

Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate and Three Bridges), who is also leader of Crawley Borough Council, explained that his division was effectively being halved, and there was a case of two wards paired together that hardly touch and simply have a single road connecting them.

He added: “It is bizarre and frankly I think it opens up the road for some really weird electoral divisions being formed in the future.

“It’s a dangerous road to be going down, but it’s still a winnable area so whatever.”

Cllr Bill Acraman (Con, Worth Forest), who chaired the county council’s electoral review panel, said he was surprised the LGBCE had changed its mind, but having done so it had to re-consult, while Cllr Duncan Crow (Con, Tilgate and Furnace Green) argued the new divisions delivered greater electoral equality and were therefore ‘fairer’.

Cllr Crow added: “It’s quite clear to me the Labour group are not in favour of fairness.”

But Cllr Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Centre), a member of the electoral review panel, said: “The Conservative group have got what they wanted from the committee. I have to say they worked hard enough to get it to the point of obsession quite frankly.”

Meanwhile Cllr Brenda Smith (Lab, Langley Green and West Green) added: “I’m really amazed to see these undemocratic proposals being supported by West Sussex County Council.

“It’s simply an attempt to change political outcomes.”

Councillor Steve Waight (Con, Goring), also a member of the electoral review panel, added: “I somewhat resent the accusation of being politically manipulated as I have no political interest in Crawley at all.”

Maidenbower would be paired with Worth, Northgate with West Green, Langley Green with Ifield East, and Southgate with Gossops Green.

The majority of county councillors voted to supported the revised LGBCE proposals.

To view the revised boundaries visit LGBCE’s website.

To comment on the consultation, which closes on Monday June 6 click here.

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