In 2014, the Conservative-led Administration recommended that the Boundary Commission (BC) conduct a review of Elmbridge and the number of councillors should be reduced from 60 to 48. This represents a saving of just £54,000 a year for a council that holds reserves of approx. £70 million. With the support of the Thames Ditton & Weston Green Residents’ Association (TD&WGRA), the Elmbridge Residents’ Group Leader, Cllr Stuart Selleck, wrote to the BC outlining why a reduction in the number of councillors would be detrimental to the Borough. This can be viewed on the LGBC website www.consultation.lgbce.org.uk under the heading of ‘Council Size’. Nevertheless the BC’s response was that they were “minded to recommend a council of 48 councillors for elections in 2016”. This means a completely new ward structure where all wards comprise three councillors. At present, you will be aware, that Weston Green is represented by two councillors and Thames Ditton by three.
On the basis that there are projected to be approx.100,896 electorate in Elmbridge by 2020, dividing this number into 16 x 3 councillor wards (total 48 councillors) results in each ward ideally comprising 6306 electors. The BC’s detailed technical guidance document (April 2014) is clear that the proposed wards should result in electoral equality, with a tolerance of ±10% from the Borough average.
Eighteen months ago the Conservative-led administration set up a working group to review the boundaries in line with the three main BC criteria of delivering electoral equality, reflecting the interests and identities of local communities and promoting effective and convenient local government. It failed to produce a workable plan and it was therefore left mainly to officers, who understandably do not have detailed knowledge of our communities, to draw the lines on the map. Their efforts resulted in concentration on electoral numbers and did not take sufficient account of community identity. Hinchley Wood, for instance, was split into two with half of the ward being tacked onto Weston Green and half onto Long Ditton. Thames Ditton and Weston Green councillors wrote to the BC expressing their outrage that Hinchley Wood should be divided.
The BC published its recommendation for the Borough on their website on 30th June (see para 1). There is also a map illustrating the new boundaries.
How the Proposed Boundary Commission Recommendations Affect Weston Green
The Spring edition of ‘Thames Ditton Today’ magazine distributed in Weston Green, included a letter informing residents that, as the result of a Boundary Commission Review, all Elmbridge wards would have to be reconfigured and that boundaries would have to change. Your postal address will remain the same.
At present Weston Green has 2901 electorate which means that it will need to become part of a new, expanded ward represented by THREE councillors. (All other two-councillor wards such as Long Ditton and Hinchley Wood will have to do the same).
In our part of Elmbridge there is only so much scope for manoeuvre, due to the immovable boundaries created by Kingston Borough to the East and Claygate Parish to the South. Long Ditton ward is currently small and has to grow and therefore may have to take in some of Thames Ditton and Hinchley Wood.
You will note that, in the latest recommendation from the BC, it listened to Hinchley Wood supporters and it has been kept largely together, as far as possible to make the numbers work. Not splitting Hinchley Wood is a very positive move and one we applaud. However, the knock-on effect for Weston Green is that it finds itself joined to the majority of Hinchley Wood in a much bigger THREE councillor ward called Hinchley Wood & Weston Green, comprising two very distinct and rightly proud communities each with its own councillors. The problems of ‘effective barriers’ existing between the two namely the A309, an arterial railway line and the notorious Scilly Isles, outlined by both Weston Green and Hinchley Wood communities in the March 2015 submissions, were ignored by the BC.
Past experience in other Boroughs makes it clear that huge changes to the 30th June BC proposals are extremely unlikely to be accepted but, on a positive note, Weston Green has been left intact within one ward. If you visit the BC website there are two main links to consider :-
- Draft Summary (page 1) and Borough map (page 2) If you click on ward 5 the resulting Consultation Map does not label the new ward. However if you select our area and enlarge it, it shows the detail.
- Draft Recommendations Report
The Elmbridge Borough Council Electoral Review Working Group requested the 30th June BC proposal be reviewed, suggesting that the new Hinchley Wood & Weston Green ward be extended further to take in that part of the Esher Ward known as Lower Green, north of the railway line.
The TD&WGRA Executive (which includes your Ward Councillors) duly discussed this suggested amendment paying particular regard to the natural community links between the two areas and what was best for Weston Green going forward. It was agreed that it should be supported. This recommended change to the BC proposal was ratified at Full Council, 22nd July 2015. It is worth noting that the Council’s recommended amendment to the BC proposal, outlined above, was not available on the Boundary Commission (BC) website at the time of writing.
Unfortunately, this whole process has moved exceedingly quickly since 30th June and it has proved very difficult to keep everyone up-to-date. However the TD&WGRA Executive are confident that, given the changes that have been imposed on us by the BC review, the most recent Elmbridge Borough Council proposal agreed at Full Council on 22nd July 2015 is arguably the best possible scenario for Weston Green. We believe the needs of residents will be well represented by this new scheme – which is what the Residents’ Association always endeavours to achieve.
The proposed, larger Hinchley Wood & Weston Green Ward can only include Lower Green if this is what the residents of Weston Green and Lower Green would like and they let the Boundary Commission know. We have many common goals - protection of the Green Belt and supporting sensitive and appropriate development also problems – ever increasing HGV traffic, parking issues and road safety. We see this as a positive and progressive step for both Weston and Lower Green and believe that we would be better together. If you agree, it is important that you write by 24th August in support of the area of Lower Green, north of the railway line, being included in the new Hinchley Wood & Weston Green ward emphasising the community links between the two areas. Some bullet points follow at the end, which may be helpful.
Write to: The Review Officer (Elmbridge)
LGBCE, 14th Floor, Millbank Tower
London SW1P 4QP
Post comments directly on the BC website: www.consultation.lgbce.org.uk
Ruth Bruce Weston Green Councillor
020 8398 8324 email@example.com
Tannia Shipley Weston Green Councillor
020 8398 2484 firstname.lastname@example.org
Maureen Sheldrick, President TD&WG Residents’ Association
020 8398 2651 email@example.com
THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION REVIEW OF ELMBRIDGE
- The Boundary Commission proposal should be amended so that the new Hinchley Wood & Weston Green Ward be further extended to take in the part of the Esher Ward known as Lower Green, north of the railway line because the two communities have strong geographic, social, faith and educational ties.
- Many residents in both Weston Green and Lower Green are supportive of this.
- Elmbridge Borough Council is recommending this change too.
- The electorate in Weston and Lower Green share many of the same goals and problems.
- Cranmere School serves both Weston and Lower Green families and for a number of reasons needs to be retained in the expanded Hinchley Wood & Weston Green Ward after its 2016 relocation to Arran Way, Esher.
- The Head Teacher has written to the BC and other governors agree that the school (when relocated) should be in the new ward of Hinchley Wood & Weston Green so that the current valuable support and important community links, built over many years, are retained.
- The PTA and board of governors have traditionally included Weston Green parents and residents, demonstrating its strong links to Weston Green.
- Both the long-serving, retiring Chairman of Governors and the candidate that has been asked to stand as her replacement from September 2015, are both Weston Green residents as are other governors.
- Cranmere is linked with the church of All Saints’ Weston in Weston Green and is nominated by Guildford Diocese as the church to provide pastoral care for the school.
- The school has asked to have a page in the All Saints’ Weston Parish Magazine demonstrating its affiliation.
- There are strong current and historical ties between members of All Saints’ Weston and families in Lower Green who see Weston Green as their natural local church.
- The Foodbank that operates from All Saints’ Weston also serves Lower Green.
- An Elmbridge sponsored Youth Video and Photography Project is under way, specifically for young people from Weston and Lower Green to showcase the two communities.
- Once the new Co-op opens, Lower Green and Weston Green will have a shared local supermarket.
- People from Weston Green work in Lower Green and vice versa.
- The bus route links Weston Green and Lower Green and access to the nearest railway station for Lower Green is via Weston Green.