Boundary Commission Review Submission

On the 3rd and 4th November the Boundary Review Commission came to Birmingham and heard submissions regarding the first draft of their proposals.

The whole submissions can be read HERE but make sure you put hours aside to read them !

However this was my submission which was on behalf of myself and I attended the first day. If you take to read the submissions of those around us, then Cllr Graham Green tory in Oscott claiming Oscott, Pheasey and Streetly share similar views is clear nonsense.

MR ROBATHAN: Thank you, Chair, and welcome everybody, ladies and gentlemen.

Hopefully, my points aren’t going to be too bad and to the point. I’m actually not
used to public speaking to be perfectly honest stood up in front of this many people, apart
from one football game where I got shouted down, so I’ll carry on.

Okay, this is all a pretty insular pseudo political debate, losing all the people
wondering what we discuss instead of jobs, the economy and the rest of the things in
normal people’s lives. However, what the Boundary Commission decide actually will
decide on people’s representation, how they’re represented in Parliament and, therefore,
what happens at the general level.

I actually live in Pheasey Park Farm ward in Walsall South and I’m actually a
Labour Party activist. In Pheasey we’re in the unique position of being on the edge of
being on the edge of five MPs and three local authorities; and we get a lot of news from
Walsall South, Aldridge Brownhills, Sutton Coldfield, Erdington, Perry Barr and West
Brom. So, I think I’ve got a fair idea about how people feel and think.
However, I’m here, not representing the party, not representing Pheasey, just
representing myself and my own views. For people in Pheasey, I believe that we’re
actually split about where we would like to be. Some people look towards Birmingham
like myself. I am Brummie; I’m not from Walsall. Some people are from Walsall; some
people even think of themselves as South Staffordshire, based on pre-1974 boundaries.
Some people think they might be Sandwell.

So, where we end up, to some extent, will never please anybody or please
everybody. I’m going to look at the wider viewpoint. As I say, these are my personal
views and I believe they are views which are consistent with the Boundary Commission’s
stated policies on ties, communities and of course numbers. I’m not actually going to go
for any numbers and stuff because I think you’d be bored, so I’m going to go through
some general principles of how I believe the Boundary Commission should look at this.
So, if we start with the existing proposals. I’m only going to speak about my area
of the world, which is Walsall and North Birmingham, but I’m not blind to the knock-on
effects to the other part of the areas. If the proposals are kept intact as they are, there is
one change that has to be made. Currently we’re in Walsall South. The name of the
constituency must be changed from Walsall South to Great Barr. In the constituency we
are part of Great Barr. You’ve got 17,000 people in Oscott who would be counted as part
of Great Barr. You’ve got the Great Barr ward. So, nearly half the constituency is Great
Barr. To call it Walsall South would actually not represent the true area of that area.

However, I don’t believe the current proposals are suitable. I believe the
Commission have foregone logical communities and ties for what I would call just a
computer model and it’s been designed on a computer. To have a constituency like
Walsall South over three local authorities is just not feasible from any kind of practical
point of view. If you come to a CLP meeting, if you’re that sad, or Conservative meeting
or whatever, where you’ve got the MP and you’ve had the discussions, try to imagine a
discussion where you’re trying to discuss three different council policies which could also
be three different councils under three different controls. It’s bad enough when you’ve
just got one council. Can you imagine having the Walsall Council, the Sandwell Council
and the Birmingham Council and the MP trying to sort out policies? As it is at the
moment, to try and fit in with those councils would just be mad.

When I look at that, I’ve looked at proposals. I’m not drawing up any myself but I
do support and fully support Adrian Bailey’s proposals, as you heard earlier. For me, it is
just common sense and consistent, mutual interest to draw up a plan which I believe is
totally relevant to the people of Walsall and North Birmingham, and this does include New
Hall swapping from Sutton, going back into Sutton, and Kingstanding swapping back into
Perry Barr.

On a computer model, it may look sensible to have a boundary between New Hall
and Castle Brom. It’s a bigger boundary than New Hall and Tyburn. I can’t deny that.
However, if anybody’s actually gone done there – and I’ve rode my bike down that area
through Water Orton, there’s nobody who lives on that boundary. It’s total farmland on
one side. You’ve got the M6 splitting it through the middle. It’s just as much a nonsense
as the 100 yards between Tyburn and Castle Bromwich. So, to me, the argument that,
“Yes, it must be kept as the Boundary Commission’s are because one’s bigger than the
other”, you could use that in every single area and change it, and I don’t think that would
be sensible. Also, when you look at the common affinities and the common beliefs and
the common people, there is nothing really common between Kingstanding and Sutton
Coldfield. I live, what, 200 yards away from Kingstanding and there’s just no kind of –
nobody would ever think that Kingstanding is part of Sutton ward. Try and change
Sutton’s name to Sutton and Kingstanding, you might have a riot in Sutton. So, I mean,
at the end of the day, you’ve got to draw up proposals that make sense to people on the 72
ground for people to actually have some legitimacy in a parliamentary debate, in a
parliamentary democracy.

However, Adrian’s proposals do include split wards, and this is where I separate
from my own party on this. I do not believe split wards are a problem. As an activist on
the ground, we have argued that our ward should be split as part of ones we’ve married.
It would cause us no problems at all for the activist on the ground to have split wards.
Yes, you’d have to produce two different leaflets. Maybe you’d have to change them a
bit. You might have to talk different languages to different parts. But split wards makes
sense if it comes up with a better idea in the end. So, if you look at Adrian’s example and
where he looks in Oscott, Oscott is just over the road from myself. To move that into
Walsall South and move 17,000 Brummies into a Walsall constituency is just madness.

None of them think of themselves as Walsall. I know none of the people in Walsall want
Birmingham in Walsall. It’s just not a sensible plan. If you think about things at this level
and you want an MP to represent yourself, you’ve got to make sure that 17,000
Brummies aren’t left on the edge and just given over to a Walsall MP who’s got their own
interests in Walsall, because that’s who the majority come from.

So there’s nothing unlawful about split wards. As Adrian mentioned, we see them
in Scotland because of the sizes up there. If you try to deny yourselves the option of
having split wards where, frankly, on the ground it’s not going to make any difference to
me — so what? Do it. This is, as I say, where the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour
all disagree with split wards. I don’t, and I’ll probably get into trouble, but never mind.

So, I recognise that Birmingham has a problem with large wards. That’s the old
complete problem, but the solution is not to move Brummies outside the sphere of
Birmingham MPs, nor is the solution to move 17,000 Suttonians away from a Sutton MP.
I do recognise that when you move people into Birmingham – and you have to, to make
some of the numbers up – that will cause a problem, but generally those wards are going
to be half the size of Birmingham wards, Castle Bromwich, other wards, Warley, various
others are like 9,000, so there is less disruption. If your Boundary Commission proposals
are about less disruption then you must follow the less disruptive methods and not try and
fix them.

When you are looking at the proposal again, I urge the Boundary Commission to
follow the following set of criteria. Birmingham wards must stay within Birmingham as a
priority. Historic boundaries and ties must be taken into consideration, Sutton and
Kingstanding for example. You must have a West Bromwich named seat. Not to have a
West Bromwich named seat is a disgrace. West Bromwich is a total centre in its own.
It’s just ridiculous. It’s even got its own football team, no matter how rubbish they are.

So, you know, at the end of the day, you’ve got to do it. Split wards should be used to
solve the problem, rather than end up with cross-boundary seats where possible.
Birmingham is essentially the West Midlands, and I know that a few from outside the
West Midlands might bristle against that. I know Birmingham gets a lot of stick from
Wolverhampton and Black Country, but it is the economic heartbeat of the West
Midlands.

So, the importance of the city must mean it must have the maximum
representation of MPs within the rules to forge its way as a city at a national level. To
reduce the city to regional proposals which are just seven old Birmingham seats, reduce
the influence of the city at national level to a low level never seen before. If the
Commission failed to take on board natural ties and bonds within the selected 73
boundaries, we end up with a less representative Parliament and not a greater one.
Okay, thank you

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12 thoughts on “Boundary Commission Review Submission

  1. What exactly is a split ward? For example what would happen to Pheasey Park Farm/Orchard Hills. I consider myself a Brummie but admit there are some things that Walsall does better – like wheelie bins for example! Would we stay in Walsall for council purposes but in Brum for a general election?

  2. Hi Duncan.

    For the numbers to work and maintain wards within their natural boundaries (for example no one believes Oscott should be paired with Streetly and PAddock, well apart from Coun Green for political purposes) then a way round this is to split Oscott between Erdington and Perry Barr.

    In the case of Pheasey it is easy to split Orchard Hills away from Pheasey as there is a natural bouundary between us (Barr Beacon). It could mean for example being represented by a Birmingham MP but still within Walsall Council. In other words Pheasey and Prk Farm could be under one MP, Orchard Hills under another but both parts as one ward in Walsall Council.

    The whole debate of where Pheasey should actually sit is avoided by people for their own various reasons and whilst the boundary review will mean a change, to split Oscott from a Birmingham based MP is clear nonsense.

  3. That makes sense. When you think about it there is no reason why national and local boundaries have to be purely number based and to to take account of local identities is sensible. I’d wager that most Pheasey/Park Farm (don’t forget Park Farm we have our local identity too! LOL) residents have never been to Orchard Hills (a fairly new creation by all accounts like Netherfield Park) and possibly don’t know where it is either.

  4. Well Duncan we ahve this split personality all across what is now the Pheasey Park Farm ward, in reality it is four different areas, all different.

    1) Netherhall and the debate over that but who do the residents there think they are, Walsall, West Brom or Brummies ?

    2) Park Farm, a new part of the whole estate with a seperate identity of it’s own with very many living there since it was built.

    3) Pheasey as the exisiting place around the terminus and where I live. Even this is split as Doe Bank has it’s own identity

    4) Orchard Hills or otherwise know as Daisy bank and from the Longhorn upwards. These were added onto the ward as part of the 2006 boundary review. I know a few people from there and they are no more Pheasey than we are Orchard Hills.

    Even within Pheasey/Park Farm (I never forget Park Farm !) we have split identiy, some look as themselves as Walsall, I believe the majority think themselves as Brummies and some even as West Brom. However it has never been put ot the test or debate and this is needed in my view.

  5. Hi Ian and Duncan,
    As Ian now points out, various local residents in Pheasey/Park Farm have very different views with regard to how they view there identity and loyalties. Up until a few months ago Ian had the fixed opinion that most people here viewed themselves as ‘Brummies’; an opinion he has since mercifully tempered. I have lived in Pheasey/Park Farm for over 52 years and see little evidence of there being more than a small number of local people who consider themselves ‘Brummies’; and little evidence and little enthusiasm for taking Pheasey/Park Farm out of Walsall, the Black Country and the historic County of Staffordshire and into Birmingham and North Warwickshire. I consider myself a loyal Pheasey citizen; and a proud Staffordian and Black Country man. Any attempt to take Pheasey/Park Farm and place it under the control of ‘Brummie’ Councillors, bureaucrats and a ‘Brummie’ MP, will i know be bitterly resisted by myself and many of my neighbours, friends and family.

  6. but the thing is Steve under the current plans we will have in effect a birmingham MP as Oscott is far bigger than any other ward and will dominate any structure under whichever MP would win it.

    And you will admit on Pheasey Park Farm no exercise has ever been undertook to see how people do think. the last boundary review of local council boundaries was the perfect chance and it was missed.

    you say you see little evidence, I see very much a lot of it, most people say I have a brummie accent and lived here all my life, many others also are the same. there is no black country or walsall accent here.

  7. I’ve heard you speaking, you have a uniquely Pheasey accent, like myself. I know a fair few REAL Brummies and we, Pheasey citizens, sound nothing like them. Quite a few of my neighbours are originally from various parts of North Walsall, Hamstead, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Stone Cross etc etc and they each have very distinctive Black Country accents. Any vote held here on a proposition to take Pheasey/Park Farm out of Walsall and place it under enemy Brummie control would i’m sure be defeated out of hand. Some of my neighbours are originally from Kingstanding, Witton, Aston, Handsworth, Lozells, Sparkhill, Nechells etc etc; To a man and woman they couldn’t get out of Birmingham quickly enough and the very last thing they want to see are similar useless Brummie politicians and bureaucrats controlling their lives again.

  8. UKIP supporting wonderful” I want a pay rise” Mike and his band of friends represention,then Dave Church,(remember the socialist borough of walsall),even an imported MP for walsall south,,my Steve what a wonderful bunch we have in Walsall,,,,better than Brum!!!
    DJ.

  9. Interesting debate. I have no wish to fall out with any of my fellow residents in Pheasey and Park Farm. I don’t have Steve’s 52 years here but I do have 47 minus the odd one or two when I lived “abroad” in SE Birmingham! However I don’t see the anti Birmingham feeling that Steve does. In fact I would wager that most residents wouldn’t think about it particularly strongly unless they were asked. I think of myself as a Brummie although technically I live in Walsall. Like many of my generation I was born in Dudley Road Hospital but I think the main cultural factor is what your parents consider themselves to be. If we were going to “town” as kids it was always Birmingham mom and dad referred to. I support the Villa not Walsall – that would never have entered my head. As for accent, outside of the West Midlands Brummies and Black Country voices are lumped together as the same. The rest of the country doesn’t understand the distinction. I can see why Steve doesn’t want to be in Birmingham as our local identity could just be extinguished – small is beautiful in that sense. However I’ve never felt that Walsall politicians take much interest – however good (or otherwise) our own councillors may be they don’t live in the ward. It must have been a good few years since any of our representatives lived here. In my opinion that further isolates us from diecision making and the centre of power.

  10. “I can see why Steve doesn’t want to be in Birmingham as our local identity could just be extinguished ”

    that does not happen for any Birmingham ward though, each area is distinctive. From what I understand from people in 1972 we had the choice of Birmingham or Walsall and the councillors at time voted 2-1 for Walsall on the basis of being one in half the size of councillors.

    I get on well with other members of labour in the rest of Walsall but we are realistic to know that Pheasey/Park Farm is right on the edge and they like the rest of Walsall consider us as Brummies.

    It is a trite test but go to the Cat and Horns when games are on and packed for Villa, less so for Blues and not many for West Brom and that is the test of this.

    As you say Duncan when I say going to Town it meant the 90 or 91 bus when I was younger or the 997/934 now. When do most of us go for grocery shopping bet it is in Birmingham ?

    Reading the excellent book about Pheasey in the war and all the troops and residents saw Birmingham as where to go for entertainment and the natural centre.

    IT is a debate the estates should have above and beyond politics of it.

    DJ, I could argue with you on that but not the site for it but some are trying to make a difference within the constraints we have.

  11. Hi Duncan, Hi Ian,
    My family all hail from the Black Country; and nearly all of them support Albion. I agree with you Duncan and think it would be better if Local Councillors actually resided in Pheasey/Park Farm/Orchard Hills.
    Most people i know in various parts of Walsall, Ian, do not consider Pheasey residents as ‘Brummies’, but consider our suburb to be an integral part of South Walsall, South Staffordshire.
    I’d say that many Pheasey residents today prefer to do their shopping in Sutton Coldfield, Aldridge and Lichfield rather than Birmingham.

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