This week the boundary commission released their final verdict on boundary changes within Welwyn Hatfield ahead of next years Borough Council elections.
As widely feared, they have not materially changed from their previous position, and have decided to create a series of wards containing three elected members.
Ignoring the recommendations of all the major political parties as well as representations from individual councillors, the commission has fine-tuned many areas, but for others, such as South Hatfield and Welham green, huge changes are on the way.
South Hatfield as an electoral ward has been abolished. In effect, the commission has drawn a line through the heart of this community, thrown most of it in with Hatfield West, and bizarrely put the rest in with Welham Green.
As one of the elected representatives of South Hatfield, I feel very strongly that this is wrong for residents living there. You only have to see the below picture to see how neighbours in the same street are going to be living in different wards and further, that the distinctive areas of Welham Green and South Hatfield have now been lumped together for no other reason than to make the overall logic fit the decision.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
The biggest driver for the commission wanting to have equalised wards is that Welwyn Hatfield Council currently elects in thirds. This means that every year, one of the three elected councillors is up for election, with the fourth year of the cycle being used for County Council elections.
The County Council, Parish and Town Councils and of course Parliamentary elections are held once every four (or five for parliament) years. If the Borough was done in this way, we could split the wards up as they were previously.
I have raised this with John Dean and indeed the entire council, repeatedly over the course of the last two years. They have dismissed this every time. “It does matter, this isn’t the time to discuss this” said Conservative Councillor Mandy Perkins.
“Well of course you would say that, you aren’t currently in power“ said Conservative Leader John Dean.
My response to them back then is as it is now.
It’s time to put the people of Welwyn Hatfield before the interests of political parties.
I guarantee residents that one of the first things a Labour controlled Borough Council will do is begin taking steps to make the Borough Council electoral cycle the same as all the other levels of Government in this area. Once every four years.
It saves money, it saves time, it will give voting more relevance and it will allow us to undo this ridiculous move that has affected residents and makes a mockery of the idea of a 'local councillor'.