We know that the government is changing the constituency boundaries; that is unstoppable.
However, you may not have realised that there is a real danger in this that Aycliffe will lose the Greenfield-Middridge electoral district (i.e. most of the town west of Burnhill Way/Westmorland Way) to the Bishop Auckland constituency.
The problem affects the ‘Shildon East’ ward, which sits on the boundary between Bishop Auckland and Sedgefield. It includes both Thickley (in Shildon) and Greenfield-Middridge (in Aycliffe). If ‘Shildon East’ is placed in Bishop Auckland, 4232 Aycliffe voters are stripped out of whatever constituency the rest of Aycliffe is in.
At the recent Boundary Commission hearings in Darlington, I made an impassioned plea for the commissioners to split ‘Shildon East’ down the middle (as, in fact, it was split in the 2010 general election). This would allow Thickley to go into Bishop Auckland, and Greenfield-Middridge to go with the rest of Aycliffe. But readers need to know that splitting a ward like this is not allowed under the Commission’s rules (unless I have managed to convince them that there are ‘exceptional and compelling reasons’ to do so).
Sadly, what readers also need to know is that many of the other speakers at the hearings argued that it would be better to move Shildon East into Bishop Auckland. If that happens, we will ‘lose’ 4232 Aycliffe voters to a different constituency. This would, of course, only affect general elections – town and county council elections will remain unaffected – but being split between two MPs will divide and disadvantage Aycliffe.
What can you do?
If you agree with me that it would be a tragedy to lose Greenfield-Middridge back into the Bishop Auckland constituency, then please write to the Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell them that you want Aycliffe to remain a ‘discrete electoral grouping’ – in whatever constituency it ends up.
Readers will be delighted to know that – unlike many ‘consultations’ – the Boundary Commission really DOES listen to what local people want. So they WILL be influenced by a strong desire from Aycliffe not to be split.
If ever there was a time when Aycliffe needed you to put pen to paper, or to send an email, it is now.
‘Shildon East’ ward. If it goes to Segdefield, Shildon loses Thickley. If it goes to Bishop Auckland, Aycliffe loses 4232 voters – including Middridge and the Greenfields, Chase, Byerley Park, Alston Crescent, Meadowfield, Bluebell and ‘the Dales’ estates.