Dozens of residents of Stroud Trinity ward gathered at the Crown & Sceptre pub on Thursday night for a meeting to discuss the Boundary Commission’s plans to move Trinity to the new County Council division of Bisley & Painswick, writes Sue Fenton.
The plans result from the creation of two new County Council divisions due to population growth in the Gloucester area. The residents of Painswick are being moved from the existing Painswick & Upton division into a newly created Bisley & Painswick division, which will have relatively few residents as it’s a rural area. In order to balance out the number of residents in each division across the county, the Boundary Commission wants to move residents from somewhere else into Painswick & Bisley to make up the numbers there.
Trinity has been chosen as the ward from which residents will be moved, meaning Trinity will be hacked out of the current Stroud Central division and made part of the largely rural Bisley & Painswick division.
The plans would mean the end of the current situation where the boundaries of the town council, district and county wards are the same. Instead, residents and Stroud town council will have to liaise with two county councillors instead of the current one (David Drew, Labour), meaning local services would be affected.
Stroud Town Council has objected to the plans https://www.stroudtown.gov.uk/news/2023/11/objection-to-proposed-electoral-boundary-changes
Cllr David Drew said after the meeting: “This is ignorant gerrymandering, designed to even out numbers without any consideration being given to the importance of community affiliations. It makes no sense and will not benefit the residents of Trinity, who will be represented by a county councillor who will have a huge, mainly rural, area to cover, incorporating as it does seven parish councils and three district council wards.
“I don’t envy the councillor who ends up with this proposed division as it will be a challenge to attend all the various parish meetings effectively, or know the schools intimately. It will not make for effective local government.
“This is a result of the government’s obsession with trying to run representation just around numbers rather than locations, with a ‘one size fits all approach’.’ It is not fair that an urban area such as Stroud is being sacrificed to make the numbers up elsewhere in a rural area that Stroud does not identify with in any way.”
The Trinity ward district councillor, Lucas Schoemaker (Green) also objects. “There has been a shocking lack of consultation about this. Until they heard about the meeting via local social media, most residents knew nothing about this. And the feedback from the many residents who turned out on a freezing cold Thursday night at short notice shows the strength of feeling about it all. Instead of having one county councillor who lives locally and attends local council meetings, we’ll have two county councillors, one of whom will be based miles from Stroud and cannot be expected to understand the issues of this ward.
“The Boundary Commission must remember it is tasked by Government not only to even out numbers but also to give great weight to the local connection.
“What troubles me most is that if this goes ahead people will feel disenfranchised and less engaged and will lose interest in the democratic process and be less likely to bother voting – which is perhaps the intention behind these plans. Is it a coincidence that the residents of Trinity are mainly Labour and Green voters?”
Cllr Adrian Oldman (Green town councillor for Paganhill & Farmhill), whose home ward of Whiteshill is affected by a related proposal to move Whiteshill to a newly created division of Haresfield & Upton, told the meeting that the Boundary Commission had not consulted either the town or district councils about the plans, and said the short consultation period (the plans were announced in late October, with a deadline of December 11) was “simply unacceptable”. “The Boundary Commission urgently needs to find a way to even out the numbers without pointlessly divorcing Trinity residents from the rest of the town that they are demographically, geographically, historically and culturally affiliated with.”
Rodda Thomas, landlord of the Crown & Sceptre, who hosted the meeting, said: “My pub is one of the many facilities and landmarks in Trinity that are used by the whole of Stroud, and that would be moved to Bisley & Painswick, to be represented by a county councillor who probably hasn’t even been to the Crown & Sceptre.
“If I were cynical I would suggest that this is all a ploy to cut off the most left-wing ward in Stroud from the rest of the town – and push out the primarily Labour and Green voters to make Stroud Central easier for the Tories to win at the next county council elections. But if it’s true that this is really just about balancing out the number of residents in each division, I still object strongly.
“The Trinity community identifies as being residents of Stroud town. We Stroudies say NO to being cut off from the rest of the town because of some number-crunching paper-pusher who has never even been to Stroud.”
Residents are urged to respond to the consultation by December 11 at https://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/gloucestershire/feedback