MPs await shift in political landscape

Voters in the five constituencies in the area may find they have moved across political borders in proposals drawn up by the independent Boundary Commission for England revealed on September 13.

Political sources said the reshuffle could mean big changes. Hitchin may be taken away from Peter Lilley’s constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden and incorporated into North East Herts represented by Oliver Heald.

Stevenage, represented by Stephen McPartland, could be expanded to take in Great Ashby, currently represented by Mr Lilley. Villages to the north could also be incorporated in the town.

The changes are being drawn up to take account of shifting population patterns, as well as new rules brought in by the Coalition Government to decrease the number of MPs at the next election. The current 650 MPs in the UK will be reduced to 600, while the number of voters they represent will rise to between 72,810 and 80,473.

Oliver Heald said members will not know the results of the review before the public announcement and are just waiting to see what cards they are dealt by the commission.

“We’re all waiting to hear what the potential parliamentary proposals are and that’s very much kept in the hands of The Boundary Commission. I’m very lucky to have the constituency I have and we will just have to see what comes up,” he said.

“I have previously been MP for Hitchin (from 1992 to 1997 when it was part of the former North Herts constituency) and had a close relationship with the town but I know Peter Lilley since becoming MP has been well supported by the town.”

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Sharon Taylor, leader of Labour controlled Stevenage Borough Council said many people will welcome the reduction in MPs, while anomalies such as those caused by new housing developments should be taken into account in the review.

“What I hope they will do is respect some of the natural boundaries in Stevenage - for example the development at Great Ashby. A lot of people feel they are in Stevenage.”

Responding to the possibility of more traditionally Tory-voting villages within the Stevenage constituency - which changed from red to blue at the last General Election, Cllr Taylor said: “It is down to us to do the work to put the Labour view across.”

A 12-week public consultation will take place after the proposals are announced, before another round of consultation in response to any redrafting.

A final plan will be put to Parliament by September 2013 when MPs will vote on whether to accept it.

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