Tories launch war of wards after Sunderland elections shake-up

Sunderland Conservative Councillors from left Peter Wood, Tony Morrisey, Alan Wright and Robert Oliver who objecting to boundry change proposals.
Sunderland Conservative Councillors from left Peter Wood, Tony Morrisey, Alan Wright and Robert Oliver who objecting to boundry change proposals.
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WEARSIDE Tories have submitted official objections to plans to shake-up Sunderland’s election boundaries.

The Boundary Commission set out plans in September to redraw Sunderland’s boundaries as part of the Coalition Government’s aim to reduce the number of MPs and make Parliament more democratic.

Sunderland will not lose any of its three MPs, but plans to annexe part of Gateshead and tinker with internal boundaries have caused some disquiet in the city.

It is the second boundary shake-up impacting Sunderland in a decade.

Now Sunderland Conservatives have requested the Boundary Comission change its plans as part of a consultation into the proposals.

Tory press spokesman Tony Morrissey said: “Sunderland Central is already the correct size, with an established identity. Change is unnecessary.

“Under the Boundary Commission proposal the residents of Redhill and Ryhope wards would find themselves in their third constituency in 10 years – under ours only one ward, St Anne’s, would move.”

The Boundary Commission has proposed to move Ryhope from the Sunderland Central constituency to Houghton and Sunderland South.

Washington and Sunderland West would lose the Redhill 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.

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 – where it has one councillor – while Redhill remains staunch Labour.

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

Coun Morrissey said: “The current Ryhope ward – which includes a significant part of Grangetown – has much stronger links with the neighbouring wards of Hendon and St Michael’s, which also include parts of Grangetown, and with the Sunderland city centre than with Houghton.

“While it did once form part of a constituency with Houghton, it didn’t then include part of Grangetown and even then was a poor fit in that constituency.

“Redhill and Castle wards have established community links which make it more sensible to keep them together in the same Washington constituency.”

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.

He said: “St Anne’s is a ward on the south of the river Wear. It had only the most tenuous relationship with Washington and Sunderland West.

“The Boundary Commission included it for nothing more than equalisation of population figures. It would sit more naturally in the proposed Houghton constituency, has community links with wards to the south which lie in the Houghton constituency and removing it from Washington would avoid the constituency crossing the river – something the Boundary Commission won’t do on the Tyne.

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Sunderland’s Labour MPs have said the changes in Wearside are small and will not cause the upheaval facing other parts of the country, but criticised the “flawed” process.

The trio of female MPs representing Wearside’s three constituencies have also accused the Coalition Government of “gerrymandering” to create a system which is more in their interest.

Sunderland Conservatives are the first group to announce their official suggestions to the Boundary Commission under the consultation.

Wearsiders can also have their say on the proposed changes.

Full proposals and an online consultation form are available at consultation.boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk

There will also be a public hearing on the proposals at Newcastle Civic Centre, Barras Bridge, on November 14, from 10am to 8pm, and November 15, from 9am to 5pm.