The arrangement of constituencies for general elections, local elections and elections to devolved bodies within the UK can often be a contentious issue. It can have material effects on the outcome of elections.
Each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has a dedicated Boundary Commission, established by statute, whose role it is to make enquiries as to how the boundaries should be drawn for parliamentary elections. Those Commissions study each area and invite submissions from stakeholders as part of a major consultation process including elected members and local political parties.
Reviews into the drawing of parliamentary constituencies are usually initiated by the government, which brings forward legislation requiring the relevant Boundary Commissions to undertake inquiries and bring forward recommendations. Such reviews are currently underway across the UK with all four parliamentary Boundary Commissions due to make final recommendations by 2023. The timetable for the process between now and then is as follows:
- Jan 2021: Begin development of initial proposals
- Spring 2021: Publish ‘Guide to the 2023 Review’, and complete ward-level electorate figures (i.e. including ‘prospective’ wards)
- Early summer 2021: Publish initial proposals and conduct eight-week written consultation
- Early 2022: Publish responses to initial proposals and conduct six-week ‘secondary consultation’, including between two and five public hearings in each region
- Late 2022: Publish revised proposals and conduct four-week written consultation
- June 2023: Submit and publish final report and recommendations
Separately, there are Local Government Boundary Commissions which undertake reviews of the ward boundaries used for elections for each local authority, on a periodic basis.
The Commissions must take into account certain prescribed factors, such as the geographic mass of the area of land covered and ensuring parity of ratios of electors to representatives. However, such rules still afford the Commissions a broad array of discretion which means that the submissions they receive from local stakeholders will often be determinative of the final recommendations.
Our Parliamentary and Election Law team of specialists have unparalleled experience in representing national and local political parties, MPs and councillors in making submissions to parliamentary and local government boundary reviews. Call 020 7803 3999 and ask for Gerald Shamash, Kevin Bonavia or Axel Landin.