‘Boundary changes risk voter apathy’ warn Sunderland politicians

Coucillor Harry Trueman at the new site for 52 houses at Houghton's Racecourse Estate.
Coucillor Harry Trueman at the new site for 52 houses at Houghton's Racecourse Estate.
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PLANS to redraw Wearside’s election map risk putting off voters, a senior councillor has claimed.

Officials at the Boundary Commission propose slashing the number of MPs from 650 to 600, as part of the Coalition Government’s aims to make Parliament more democratic.

Sunderland would keep its three MPs under the changes, which are intended to make sure there is a more equal number of voters in each of the country’s constituencies.

But the move would annexe parts of Gateshead into the city, and see some council wards swapped around to create three new constituencies.

Sunderland City Council deputy leader Harry Trueman voiced concerns about the proposals at a meeting of the ruling cabinet.

“I just feel people will not engage,” said the Washington councillor. “I remember when I had Joyce Quin as my MP and my constituency was Gateshead.”

“I found it hard to get delegates to go to Gateshead and join in. We will do our best to engage with people, but it is very, very difficult.”

The proposals would see Ryhope transferred from the Sunderland Central constituency to Houghton and Sunderland South.

Washington and Sunderland West would lose the Redhill council ward to Sunderland Central, but gain the Gateshead areas of Birtley and Lamesly.

The new constituencies would also be renamed simply as Sunderland, Houghton and Washington.

Wearside MPs have already criticised the “flawed” process used to draw up the proposed changes and accused the Coalition Government of “gerrymandering” to create a system which is more in their interest.

Sunderland Conservatives have also submitted an objection to the proposals.

The Tories want the Boundary Commission to leave Sunderland Central as it is, keeping Ryhope and excluding Redhill.

This would potentially benefit them at the next General Election, as the Tories had been building support in Ryhope.

Ryhope was seen as a key ward for the Tories in 2010, when former leader Lee Martin hoped to become the city’s first Tory MP in more than 40 years.

The Tories have also suggested moving the St Anne’s, which covers Pennywell and South Hylton, from Washington and Sunderland West to Houghton and Sunderland South.

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IF the proposed boundary changes go ahead, it would be the second boundary shake-up for Sunderland in a decade.

Wearside lost one MP at the last General Election as the number of politicians representing the city dropped from four to three.

Sunderland North, Sunderland South, Washington West and Gateshead East and Houghton and Washington East were reformed into Sunderland Central, Houghton and Sunderland South and Washington and Sunderland West. The creation of the more marginal Sunderland Central seat, was a key target for the Tories in 2010.