Westminster Conservatives have proposed the abolition of the Churchill Ward in their submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) in an attempt to win back control of a part of Pimlico where they lost all three Councillors in 2014. The Churchill Ward comprises the award-winning Churchill Gardens estate built in the 1950s and 1960s and is currently represented by 2 Labour Councillors and 1 Conservative. The Conservatives have proposed that Churchill Ward is merged with the adjacent Dolphin Square Estate with a new bland and anonymous name, Riverside Ward.
The LGBCE has adopted the Conservative proposals in its draft recommendations, which are now out to consultation, and will see Westminster lose 6 Councillors at the next Council elections in 2022 when 54 Council seats will be up for election.
In its draft report the LGBCE has adopted Conservative proposals for 17 out of the proposed 18 new wards. The Conservative proposals, unsurprisingly, aim to continue their current stranglehold on the Council where they hold 41 of the 60 seats. despite the Conservatives winning less than 42% of the vote in 2018 against Labour’s 40%. The Conservative proposals were forced through the Council’s General Purposes Committee in order to present them as ‘non-party political’. In other local authorities, ward boundary proposals are first put forward by Council officers on the basis of community identity rather than party political advantage.
In addition, the Conservative electoral forecasts are based on historic planning permissions for luxury housing granted over the past 3 years. Since the recent collapse of the central London luxury housing market many of these planning permissions will never be implemented and the projected increase in voters will not materialise.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour City Management spokesperson said:
“For Westminster Conservatives to propose the abolition of the Churchill Ward as part of their desperate plan to cling on to power at all costs demonstrates the depths to which they have sunk. The post war Churchill Gardens Estate has a long-established community and proud history, not least in its strong connection with the country’s greatest war leader. But now this tribute to Churchill will be wiped off the electoral map and submerged into a bland and anonymous sounding Riverside Ward which has been gerrymandered to produce a Conservative victory in 2020.”
“It is disappointing and surprising that the LGBCE has endorsed almost the entire Conservative plans in its draft proposals.”
“It cannot be right or fair for the Conservatives’ obviously politically partisan proposal to be allowed to go unchallenged and I expect there to be widespread public anger at what is being put forward”
The draft LGBCE proposals are here https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/16234
The consultation on the draft recommendations closes on 9 December 2019.