Boundary changes - how could voters not have known?

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It took almost three years, three reports and no fewer than three consultations to redraw the island’s political map.

And the lawyer who chaired the Boundary Review Commission has expressed dismay that only now, just before the general election, that some voters say they didn’t know the changes had been made.

It’s the new constituency of Garff, which now includes Howstrake and Lakeside, which were formerly in Onchan, that has prompted the biggest opposition.

But Boundary Review Committee chairman Sally Bolton said residents in Onchan and Garff had plenty of opportunity to put forward their views.

She said: ‘I’m surprised and somewhat disappointed. It’s not for want of trying. We made every effort to engage as many people as we could in the changes.

‘It’s been a privilege to be part of this. Even if people don’t agree with what we have done, we have set a template which I can’t see they can diverge from. There are two prinicples – equal numbers of members in each constituency and constituencies of roughly the same size. I don’t see how you could argue against that.’

It took nearly three years, with three reports and consultations at each stage.

Ms Bolton pointed out that it was not part of the Boundary Review Committee’s remit to choose the names for the new constituencies. Working titles were given to the new constituencies but the names were subject to a consultation by the Chief Secretary’s Office, to which there were 33 responses.

Ultimately it was down to Tynwald to decide the names of the new constituencies and Ms Bolton said there was nothing stopping Tynwald changing the names in the future.

The Boundary Review Committee was appointed to review the number and boundaries of the Keys constituencies, following a Tynwald vote in July 2010.

In a first consultation, held between mid-January 2011 and the end of March that year, the public was asked to give their views on changes to existing boundaries, the size of constituencies and number of members per constituency.

A first report was submitted to Tynwald in December 2011. The court approved the principle that each constituency should return an equal number of members, that constituencies should be of an equivalent size and that no constituency should exceed 15 per cent above or below the average population figure.

Further public consultation took place between January and June 2012 and the committee then recommended to Tynwald in its second interim report that there should be 12 constituencies each returning two MHKs. This recommendation was approved in October 2012 and the Committee was directed to complete its work by defining the boundaries of the new-look constituencies.

Following the third and final report, the June 2013 sitting of Tynwald supported a motion to redraw the island’s political map and end decades of inequality amongst voters in elections to the Keys.

Members agreed a new structure of 12 equal constituencies – each represented by two MHKs and with an average population of around 7,000 – to replace the traditional mixture of three, two and one seat constituencies which has long been criticised as unfair and undemocratic.

Under initial proposals, Birch Hill estate in Onchan would have been split between two constituencies.

But following lobbying by Tynwald members and commissioners, the boundary committee revised its plans with the whole of Birch Hill staying in Onchan and, instead, 2,141 residents in Howstrake including Lakeside Gardens moving from Onchan into Garff constituency.

Following the work of the Boundary Review Committee further views were sought by the Chief Secretary’s Office on the constituency names before the drafting of legislation to bring them into effect.

While the public had previously been asked to put forward their views concerning constituency names, the Chief Secretary’s Office invited formal submissions on this between September and October 2013.

The working title for Garff had been ‘East’ while that of Onchan had been ‘Onchan Urban’.

The name of Garff received most support during the consultation but other suggestions were that it should become ‘Garff and Onchan’. ‘Eastern Parishes’, the Manx name of ‘Garff’ or ‘Onchan Howstrake’.

Sally Bolton (Corlett Bolton & Co)  re John S.

Sally Bolton (Corlett Bolton & Co) re John S.

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