Talking politics: Halifax split in half and joined with Brighouse?

Views over Halifax
Views over Halifax

As part of their initial review of Parliamentary Boundaries, the Boundary Commission (BCE) have substantially changed the existing Calder Valley and Halifax constituencies.

Although the names of both constituencies have been retained, the proposals change both constituencies beyond all recognition. The new proposals for Halifax and Calder Valley have a number of significant flaws: they do not preserve historic ties; do not reflect community and transport links; and they create major change the extent of which is unjustified.

The historic traditions and boundaries of both constituencies are completely lost. Halifax would be split in half with Skircoat, Warley, Illingworth and Mixenden and Sowerby Bridge being placed in Calder Valley; whilst Brighouse and Elland would be paired with Halifax. The proposals would create enormous change with nearly half of all voters within Calderdale changing constituency.

The wards of Skircoat, Illingworth and Mixenden and Warley contain communities which have always been part of Halifax constituency and to which local people have an affinity. Why on earth would these areas want to be placed in Calder Valley? Alternatively, Brighouse and Elland value their proud identity and independence and there is absolutely no reason to include these towns within the Halifax constituency at the expense of those areas which naturally form part of the town. From speaking to residents within Brighouse I know that there is no appetite whatsoever to be within the same constituency as Halifax and in fact, many local residents strongly oppose this proposal. I’m sure that the feelings of local people is equally strong in those parts of Halifax, such as Skircoat, which would be transferred into Calder Valley.

Boundaries for both Parliamentary constituencies and Council wards help to shape our sense of community, identity, and place. At a time when voter apathy is a real problem it is incredibly important that local people feel that boundaries authentically represent their community and that they have a stake in the outcome of the result. Communities in Brighouse, for example, would resent voting to elect an MP for Halifax and this could have a real impact upon the number of people who vote.

Although, the initial proposals for Calderdale need substantial revision to say the least, it is worth remembering why the Boundary Commission is completing a review. As it stands, some constituencies have many more electors than others and this cannot be right. The Isle of Wight, for example, has an electorate five times the size of the Western Isles in Scotland and yet both send one MP to Parliament. Similarly, large cities such as Glasgow and Newcastle are overrepresented at the expense of places such as Calderdale. Equalising the size of constituencies will ensure everyone’s vote will carry equal weight.

At a time when all areas of public spending are rightly coming under scrutiny to ensure that taxpayers money is well spent, it is also important to review the cost of politics and reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 will save over £50 million over the course of a five-year Parliament. As such, whilst the decision to cut the number of MPs and review the current boundaries is welcome, we have to ensure that our local boundaries in Calderdale reflect the geography of this area and the links and ties that our local communities have.

However, the process of reshaping our local Parliamentary Boundaries has not finished yet! There is time to register your views on the proposals as you have until December 5 to write to the following address: Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ. Following feedback from the general public, the Commission will publish a revised set of proposals next year so use this opportunity to ensure that your voice is heard.