Constituency plan leaves councillors fearing for borough

Pam Mills
Council Leader David Jukes

Council Leader David Jukes, part of the ruling Conservative group, received cross-party support in his bid for the authority to unite against plans to create a new Tunbridge Wells & Crowborough constituency.

Labour’s Cllr Dianne Hill said Tunbridge Wells would be ‘overlooked’ in Parliament under central government’s proposal to reduce the number of British MP seats from 650 to 600.

Parliament will vote on boundaries drawn up by the Boundary Commission, which have been shaped to ensure all constituencies have 71,031 to 78,507 voters.

Contentiously, Tunbridge Wells would expand across county lines to include much of the existing Wealden constituency, which would be dissolved. But current Tunbridge Wells areas Langton Green, Bidborough, Speldhurst, Pembury and Southborough would come under Tonbridge.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s borders would remain unchanged but members feared plans for the MP patch to cross county lines could negatively impact the authority.

Cllr Jukes’ motion, his first in almost three decades on the authority, stated: “The proposals fail to recognise natural and historic communities of place, are administratively burdensome and would impact adversely on democratic representation.

“We urge our local MPs to reject these proposals and to seek revisions that better reflect the views of local people.”

It has not been confirmed how local MPs Greg Clark [Tunbridge Wells] Tom Tugendhat [Tonbridge] and Nus Ghani [Wealden] would be affected.

The plans also mean the area Tunbridge Wells Borough Council cover could be served by three MPs rather than just one, with Hawkhurst area falling in the proposed Weald of Kent boundary.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday [September 26] the motion was carried with 35 councillors voting in favour and eight abstaining.

Cllr Dianne Hill, of the council’s Labour group, said: “We would have no MP who properly represents the whole borough. Tunbridge Wells will not have an MP to represent its interests. It is likely the town is to be overlooked, with so much of Wealden being considered, and would not be properly represented in Parliament.”

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