An all out council election will take place in Bolton next May as a result of boundary changes. But the leader of Bolton Council says the changes have let down some residents living in the borough. Lewis Finney reports


Cllr Martyn Cox, leader of Bolton Council has criticised the changes in the borough's ward boundaries being rolled out following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission.

He says the review has led to an unequal distribution of residents in wards.

Bolton is heading for an all-out election in 2023 where all seats in every council ward will be contested.

But Cllr Cox says his issue is nothing to do with politics but fair representation for residents.

The 'expensive and time-consuming' process is down to the Local Government Boundary Commission's review.

The review was designed to equalise the number of voters across each ward. This would make sure that each councillor represents a similar number of voters, making the the voting process as fair as possible.

The ideal number of voters per ward is 10,200, and anything greater than a 10 per cent variation above or below that figure is deemed to been in need of change.

Currently there are two wards that are outside of the ideal threshold - Halliwell and Tonge with the Haulgh both have 12 per cent less people than the ideal figure.

This issue has been rectified under the new plans, with Crompton disappearing and constituents being split between its neighbouring wards.

However, this has had a knock on affect elsewhere. While some wards come closer to that 10,200 figure, others will become more uneven.

Neighbouring wards Astley Bridge and Bromley Cross currently contain a similar number of voters, but under new plans would see a 16 per cent difference between the two.

The Bolton News: The proposed new boundary mapThe proposed new boundary map (Image: Local Government Boundary Commission)

Cllr  Cox says that the most glaring error the commission has made can be found in Heaton and Lostock – which already had seven per cent more people in it than it should have.

The new formation will see a chunk of what is currently considered Horwich and Blackrod, as well as the whole of Chew Moor, placed in the ward, reforming it as Heaton, Lostock and Chew Moor.

This has created a disparity between the ward and its neighbours. It will soon be home to 11 per cent more people than it should be, whereas Horwich South and Blackrod, as it will be called, will be nine per cent under the threshold.

Cllr Cox said: “They have moved plenty into Heaton, Lostock and Chew Moor and now its 20 per cent bigger than its neighbouring ward having taken a chunk form Horwich. It makes no sense.

READ MORE: Boundary Commission final proposal up for public consultation

“In the consultation process we said it was already too big, so why have they made it bigger?”

The new plans would mean a difference of around 2,400 voters between the two wards.

“I can’t say it gives a particular advantage to either side, politically,” he added. “The biggest losers are the residents of Bolton West.”

“The Boundary Commission have done a poor job of it and let down those people and have failed by not created equal wards.

“It’s not straightforward. I’m not trying to pretend it’s an easy job, but they’ve created a problem that didn’t have to exist."

The Bolton News: Table of figures for new boundary plansTable of figures for new boundary plans (Image: Local Government Boundary Commission)

Although plans are in motion, Cllr Cox does not see any reason why they still could not be revised.

He added: “When I can see an obvious error, I don’t see why they can’t come a long and fix it.”

A spokesperson for the Local Government Boundary Commission said: "When we carry out electoral reviews the laws says that we must take into account electoral equality, community identities and helping the council to run effectively. Reviews are not, therefore, simply a mathematical exercise to equalise the number of electors in each ward.

"We reviewed the electoral and boundary arrangements for Bolton because of the time elapsed since they were last reviewed in 2003. Our recommendations have been approved by Parliament and will come into effect from elections held in 2023.

"When we carry out a review, the law says that we must base our recommendations on projections of the number of electors five years following the publication of our final recommendations.

"It seems that Cllr Cox is referring to the backward-looking 2020 figures for new wards. The forward-looking projections which we are required to use are in the far right column.

"They show Heaton, Lostock and Chew Moore to have a variance of 9 per cent from the Bolton average, and Horwich South and Blackrod to have a variance of 1 per cent."

Cllr Cox is aware that the commission considers the future population estimates, which he describes as "crazy".

He added: "Why use a floating figure as a benchmark rather than an actual figure?"

A summary of the final recommendations can be found at here.

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