Woodbridge county council division to get new boundary: and YOU can help choose
Seemingly the Boundary Commission “is minded to recommend that Suffolk County Council should have 70 councillors”, instead of the current 75 (this with me working 100 hour weeks already. Sigh).
More reasonably, they also want to redraw the councillor boundaries to have more equal numbers of residents per division, and potentially get rid of 2-member divisions.
The Commission is asking both local councils and the public to help decide where the new boundaries should be.
Our Woodbridge division has to change to increase the number of persons included . If nobody contacts, the commission will redraw the boundary to its own thoughts – which they admit can have no local knowledge of or understanding of local linkings.
Woodbridge division needs, ideally to acquire an extra 1600 -1800 people within its county council boundary. (This has no effect on existing parish boundaries. Eg the current Woodbridge division already contains some of Martlesham Parish) While the east, west and south boundaries of the Woodbridge division have a clear rationale, currently its northern border with Melton is confusing.
My personal view is that it would seem sensible for both sides of Pyches Road, the Woodbridge Primary school, developments like Bury Hill and Saxon Way, and all (rather than some ) of Bredfield Rd to be included in the county boundary. It is an area which is in the Parish of Melton – but which thinks of itself as Woodbridge and uses Woodbridge shops and services and whose roads are wholly interlinked. It makes sense for it to be in the Woodbridge county boundary rather than the neighbouring division of Wickham. This would enable eg roads and schools to be administered together. Currently the county boundary is the broken line down the middle of Pyches Road – separating Woodbridge even from its own primary school.
Note: There is nothing explicit to say that submissions have to be based on a council size of 70, but anyone making a submission on any other council size would have to put forward strong supporting arguments to justify this. This would likely need to be linked to the practical impact of division patterns. The Commission also has the right to “adjust by one or two” the council size it has proposed, if this adjustment fits its preferred pattern of divisions. This would be reflected in the next stage of the process, when draft recommendations are published and consulted on.
Submissions should address the following three factors, and must be backed up with evidence and examples. These are statutory criteria that the Boundary Commission must consider, and all three will be given equal weight.
- Electoral equality
- The new boundaries should leave each councillor representing roughly the same number of voters across the county.
- The data to use for this is the 2025 forecast electorate (592,066), which gives an average electorate per councillor of 8458 (assuming 70 councillors). If the submission is based on a different council size, then obviously the average electorate per councillor will need to be adjusted to reflect this.
- In general, the Commission will accept variances from the average number of electors per councillor of up to +/- 5%. Anything over that may be questioned and may require justification.
- Community identity
- The boundaries should, as far as possible, reflect community interests/identities. This must be evidence-based and cannot just be asserted.
- Issues to consider include: transport and communication links within the proposed division; community groups or local organisations that represent the area; facilities, such as where people go for shopping, medical services and leisure facilities; identifiable boundaries, such as rivers, woodland, roads or railway lines; parish boundaries; shared interests or concerns within the community, which aren’t relevant to neighbouring areas.
- Effective and convenient local government
- Issues to consider include the number of councillors per division, the geographic size of divisions, and the relationship with district boundaries.
- The Commission has confirmed that it will attempt to draw-up a pattern of single-member divisions for Suffolk. There are seven two-member divisions in East Suffolk:
- Felixstowe Coastal
- Kesgrave and Rushmere St Andrew
- Lowestoft South
- Legally the electoral divisions must be wholly contained within a district: a division can never straddle two district councils. (It can of course straddle parish councils: the Woodbridge county division has long contained a section of the Martlesham parish council.) While the new division boundaries should try to match district ward boundaries as far as possible, there is no requirement for them to be coterminous.
To help with submissions, you can download the “Electorate Proforma” for Suffolk from https://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/eastern/suffolk/suffolk-county-council-0. (Via the link on that page under Further Information, which says ( 2) Division Arrangements Consultation). You will need to amend the “Number of Councillors” figure at the top right to reflect the council size you are working with (e.g. 70 councillors). This will then show which divisions are forecasting a variance from the average electorate per councillor in 2025