Two local Labour Party branches have blasted what they describe as attempts to ‘gerrymander’ Oldham Council’s ward boundaries by the local Conservative Party.
The allegation comes in a letter from Failsworth East and West branch Labour Parties to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) in response to the latest consultation on Oldham Council’s ward boundaries.
The letter, signed by Failsworth East Branch Labour Party Secretary and former Oldham Council Leader Sean Fielding, welcomes the proposed new Failsworth wards. The LGBCE proposals suggest Failsworth East and West wards which are almost identical to those which currently exist. The only alteration is a minor change around Failsworth District Centre.
The letter was less generous, however, about the submissions, or lack of submissions, to the consultation by opposition parties.
In a separate submission the Oldham Conservative Party proposes dividing Failsworth between North and South, rather than East and West, and creating a ‘Failsworth South and Woodhouses’ ward. In order to meet the required electorate number it also proposes attaching part of the present Hollinwood ward to the proposed Failsworth North ward. Of these proposals the Labour Party said “the Tory proposal is a shameless attempt to gerrymander a ‘Failsworth South and Woodhouses’ ward which they likely believe could improve their electoral fortunes in our part of the Borough”.
Labour’s letter also refers to what it perceives to be ‘indifference’ to the boundary review by the Failsworth Independent Party, who failed to make any submission at all to The Commission.
Secretary of Failsworth East Branch Labour Party and former Failsworth Councillor Sean Fielding said, “I’m not surprised that the Tories have proposed wards for Failsworth that they believe would favour them. In my view Tories are always about putting their own electoral interests above the interests of the people they wish to represent. However, I do not imagine that their proposals to combine Failsworth with a bit of Hollinwood in order to gerrymander the boundaries to their benefit will go down well with people locally.
“I am, however, surprised that the Failsworth Independent Party made no submission to the boundary review whatsoever. For a party that claims to ‘put Failsworth at its heart’ it had nothing to say on the biggest local issue to affect the town in decades. Either they don’t understand the review or don’t care. Whichever of these it is, they are letting the town down and it reflects very badly on them.”
The consultation on the draft ward boundary proposals closes on 9th August with the LGBCE’s final recommendations being published on 2nd November 2021.