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RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EIGHT NEW UNITARIES PUBLISHED

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Draft recommendations for electoral arrangements affecting around a million voters in the eight new unitary authori...
Draft recommendations for electoral arrangements affecting around a million voters in the eight new unitary authorities of Blackburn, Blackpool, Halton, the Medway Towns (Gillingham and Rochester upon Medway), Peterborough, Thurrock, Warrington and The Wrekin were published today by the Local Government Commission.

Most of the eight areas under review suffer from some electoral imbalances, that is the number of electors represented by each councillor varies from one ward to another. This is not good for democracy. The position is particularly serious in Peterborough, which has the worst imbalance in the country after recent dramatic population growth in the area, and in the Medway Towns where the new authority combined two districts with quite different electoral arrangements.

The improvements to electoral arrangements proposed in most of the areas under review are very significant. Blackburn and Blackpool, in particular, would become two of the most electorally balanced local authorities in the country.

The intention is that the new arrangements will be put i place in time for the next local elections due in May 1997, before the new unitary authorities come into being on 1 April 1998.

Commission chair Malcolm Grant said:

'At present, electoral arrangements are unbalanced in a great many areas throughout England. For example, a councillor for one ward can represent more than twice, or in some cases up to four times, as many electors as a councillor for a nearby ward. Our proposals reduce these inequalities significantly and reflect the commission's objective that one person's vote should be as near as possible the same value as any other's.

'Local residents and all interested parties in these areas now have eight weeks in which to make their views known to the commission in writing. I do sincerely hope all those affected will do so. The commission wants to make sure than these new unitary authorities will start off on a proper and fair electoral basis'.

Today's publication of the commission's draft recommendations marks the beginning of the eight week public consultation period, which ends on 29 October 1996. The commission will take into account all representations received by the closing date in formulating its final recommendations to the secretary of state for the environment. These will be published in early December.

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