Tonight’s council meeting at Hounslow sounds like it might be fun. Councillor John Todd plans to raise a question about the accounts. He’s noticed a large sum of money sitting in an account unspent, and wants to know why that is, at a time when the council is known to be under pressure financially. Councillor Joanna Biddolph will presenting her arguments against the cycleway formerly known as Cycle Superhighway 9. It is also the meeting at which Hounslow council will decide on the number of councillors it thinks it should have at the next local elections. Chiswick’s Homefields ward looks set to lose a councillor.
The Local Government Boundary Commission is trying to ensure fair representation by giving each councillor roughly the same number of electors to represent. The magic number is 3,636 – that’s how many each councillor in Hounslow should represent to reflect the anticipated population in 2024.
Currently there are 60 councillors. The council don’t want too many more, as it becomes too expensive, but too few and they aren’t able to cope with their burgeoning workload. The last time this exercise took place was in the 1990s and over the intervening period Chiswick Homefields ward (the Hammersmith end of Chiswick) has ended up with a smaller population than some of the other wards in the borough.
What to do about it? Both Hounslow council and the Boundary Commission see the obvious answer as reducing the number of councillors representing the ward from three to two. Hounslow’s Conservatives disagree.
The Conservatives think the anticipated 2,991 people who will soon be living in the Capital Interchange Way in east Brentford (near Chiswick roundabout) will naturally gravitate towards Chiswick to do their shopping, rather than Brentford, and so should be included in Chiswick wards. They also believe that people who live near Gunnersbury Park on Pope’s Lane and by the new football stadium at Lionel Rd North are more natural Chiswickites than Brentfordites. If they joined Turnham Green ward, and Chiswick Riverside gives Homefields ward a few roads then all nine councillors can reach the magic number of 3,636 constituents.
The Boundary Commission aren’t keen to cross the line between Brentford and Chiswick, no matter where people do their shopping, and the Conservatives will be arguing this from the position of a 51 – 9 minority.
Even if the Labour majority accepts their proposals, they would have to persuade the Boundary Commission of their argument. Otherwise come the next election, one of the councillors in Homefields ward (John Todd, Patrick Barr and Gerald McGregor) will have to start thinking very seriously about spending more time with their family.
Members of the public have until 12 August to make representations to the Local Government Boundary Commission about the subject.