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Waterloo will be marginalised by boundary changes, warns Coin Street boss

London SE1 website team

Iain Tuckett, group director of Coin Street Community Builders, has warned that Waterloo and the South Bank face marginalisation if proposed changes to parliamentary constituency boundaries go ahead.

Last month the Boundary Commission for England published draft proposals for the reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies to reduce the number of MPs and make constituencies more evenly sized in population terms.

Under the proposals Bishop's ward in Lambeth, which covers Waterloo and the South Bank and is currently part of the Vauxhall parliamentary constituency, would be joined to the Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat under the new title of 'Bermondsey and Waterloo'.

The Boundary Commission is now holding a series of public hearings to allow individuals and organisations to comment on the proposals.

The first London hearing was held in Kensington on Monday and was addressed by Iain Tuckett, group director of Coin Street Community Builders.

The social enterprise's South Bank estate straddles the Lambeth-Southwark border. For example, Oxo Tower Wharf is in Southwark but neighbouring Gabriel's Wharf is in Lambeth.

"We call ourselves 'Community Builders' not just because of the number of new residents and businesses we have brought into the area: of even greater significance is the work we and others have put into building social networks, building a distinctive identity for the area, building a shared vision for the South Bank's future and building the machinery to deliver and maintain that vision," said Mr Tuckett.

He highlighted the cross-border work of the South Bank Employers' Group, the South Bank Partnership and the quarterly South Bank Forum meetings convened by the MPs (Kate Hoey and Simon Hughes) and councillors from both sides of the borough and constituency boundary.

Mr Tuckett explained that Coin Street Community Builders has two fundamental objections to the Boundary Commission's proposals: "The arbitary reduction to 600 UK constituencies and 5 per cent limit to variation from the electoral quota has been worked through by the commission in a wholly top-down mathematical way, with scant regard to the damage that will be wreaked on relationships between constituents and their political representatives."

He continued: "The disjunction between constituencies and local authority boundaries, particularly in London and notably in Lambeth, effectively disempowers the electorate."

Roger Pratt, representing the Conservative Party at the hearing, wondered if Mr Tuckett had defeated his own argument. "Have you not made a extremely good case that Bishop's ward and Cathedrals ward should be tied together and that there are lots of local ties between the Bishop's ward and the Cathedrals ward in respect of the South Bank?" he asked.

"On the contrary," replied Mr Tuckett. "Bishop's ward will continue to have its public services produced by Lambeth Council, its planning decisions taken by Lambeth Council, its housing management, its public realm management, its traffic management – all these things will be done by Lambeth Council, but we in Bishop's ward will be represented by a member of parliament who basically is connected with Southwark.

"Only 9 per cent of his electorate will be based in Lambeth. His contacts within the Lambeth community, but more particularly the council and all the other authorities serving Lambeth, will be considerably less.

"Once again Bishop's ward will become marginal. That's the problem. It is antidemocratic. If it were to be done along with a review of local government boundaries, one might take a different view."

Cllr Roger Geiss, representing the Liberal Democrats, asked Mr Tuckett for his view on the name of the proposed new constituency.

"In our submission we are suggesting that it be named Bermondsey and South Bank to reflect that it's the South Bank where strong connections are between the two parts of the constituency," said Cllr Geiss.

Mr Tuckett replied: "I think the name is neither here nor there. It is the basic relationships and the network between people that is critical."

The Boundary Commission will hold further public hearings this month in Brent, Newham, Lewisham and Wandsworth.

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