The formation of a ‘Lawley’ ward – which would be represented by three councillors – is one of the biggest changes being put forward by Telford & Wrekin Council as part of a review of the borough’s electoral boundaries.
The authority’s proposals, signed off by its boundary review committee at a meeting on Thursday evening, would also see some wards split, some merged and others lose chunks of their population to neighbouring divisions.
If the council’s approach is accepted by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE), the number of wards would increase from 30 to 33 and all but two would be within 10 per cent of the ‘optimum’ number of 2,723 voters per councillor.
The commission has already decided the number of councillors should remain at 54, despite calls from the authority to increase this to 56.
There are currently 12 single-member wards, 12 represented by two members and six with three.
But the changes being put forward by the council could see the number of single-member divisions rise to 18, with the number of two-member wards dropping to nine. There would still be six areas represented by three councillors.
Phil Griffiths, elections team leader, told councillors the new Lawley ward would encompass areas of the current Horsehay & Lightmoor and Wrockwardine wards as well as part of Ketley & Overdale.
Mr Griffiths said the three-member Ketley & Overdale division would “effectively cease to exist”, with single member wards created for Ketley, and Overdale & The Rock.
The Millennium Community area would be moved from Ketley into Oakengates & Ketley Bank to even out voter numbers.
The changes would see Horsehay & Lightmoor lose more than half its electors, and one of its two councillors.
Councillor Richard Overton said: “The key issue is that we asked the commission last time to recognise Lawley and they didn’t.
“This time we do recognise Lawley in a significant way.”
Councillor Jayne Greenaway, who represents Horsehay & Lightmoor, said the LGBCE had “completely ignored” the forecast growth in Lawley during the last review.
However she said she did not agree with the proposal to annex part of the “historic” community of Horsehay into the new ward.
Councillor Greenaway said: “Putting Lawley in a community, which is great, is at the expense of the neighbouring community of Horsehay.
“There is no way that Horsehay identifies at all with the new Lawley development.”
Councillor Angela McClements added: “I have been on a number of borough council reviews and this has been the most difficult one because of the big Lawley development which the Boundary Commission failed to recognise last time around.
“We were telling them it was going to be a problem for the future and here we are having to deal with it now.”
Elsewhere, the committee has proposed Edgmond & Ercall Magna be split into two single-member wards, while Brookside would drop from two councillors to one, with electors in the Stirchley area moving to The Nedge ward.
Mr Griffiths said that while it appeared there were too few voters in Brookside to justify keeping two councillors, it was known to be an area where a significant percentage of residents were not on the electoral register.
He said: “I think the nature of the population and the housing means there are people that are there for a short period of time.
“The number of electors is clearly different to the number of people living there.
“In the submission I think we should make that point.”
In Wellington, the council proposes addressing low numbers of electors in certain wards by merging them with others.
Mr Griffiths said: “Councillors decided through the review that might be tackled by looking at two-member wards where you have got affinities, for example Arleston & College and Haygate & Park.”
Meanwhile in Newport, the current two divisions are proposed to be split to create four single-member wards – Newport North, East, South and West.
The only wards which would see no changes under the council’s proposals would be Dothill, Hadley & Leegomery, Madeley & Sutton Hill, and Wrockwardine Wood & Trench.
Councillor Overton said that while some of the proposed boundaries could seem “artificial”, the council had to work within the parameters set by the LGBCE.
He said: “There is give and take in every ward – some things we like and some things we don’t like.
“If we had been able to use 55 or 56 [councillors], we would be in a different situation.
“It’s been a hard decision but I think we have done the best we can under the circumstances.
“I know some members won’t like some of the proposals.”
The council’s submission to the LGBCE was approved by the committee with four votes for and two against.
Conservative group leader Nigel Dugmore, who voted against the propoals along with party colleague Jayne Greenaway, said: “Some parts of the submission I’m OK with, some parts I’m not OK with.
“I think it’s a very, very difficult task trying to fulfil the Boundary Commission’s criteria – it’s like trying to square a circle.
“Particularly so because we probably know small areas of the borough very well and other areas of the borough we haven’t got a clue.
“None of us will ever have detailed enough knowledge to do this, so all we can do is do our best.
“At the end of the day we are not the judge and jury. We have just got to give our evidence and see whether our arguments stand up.”
The consultation on warding arrangements ends on Monday.
The LGBCE’s draft recommendations will be published later in the year, followed by another round of consultation between this November and January 2022.
Final changes will be announced in March 2022, and will come into effect in time for the 2023 local elections.