Saturday, 12 June 2021

MP: New name for constituency ‘bit of own goal’

HENLEY MP John Howell says renaming his constituency “Henley and Thame” would be a “bit of

HENLEY MP John Howell says renaming his constituency “Henley and Thame” would be a “bit of an own goal”.

He says the name suggested by the Boundary Commission for England ignores Wallingford, the third market town in the constituency.

Mr Howell says the name should either incorporate Wallingford or be based on geography and called something like “South-East Oxfordshire”.

He was speaking after the commission began a public consultation on its proposals to revamp UK constituencies.

This follows Parliament’s decision to reduce the number from 650 to 600 and ensure that the number of electors in each one is more equal.

The commission is proposing no change to the number of constituencies in Oxfordshire.

Three of them — Henley, Oxford West & Abingdon, and Witney — have electorates within five per cent of the electoral quota.

Of the other three, Banbury and Wantage have electorates above the five per cent limit and Oxford East is below the limit.

To reduce the electorate of the Banbury constituency, the commission is proposing to transfer the wards of Fringford, Launton and Ambrosden & Chesterton, which are in Cherwell borough, to the renamed Henley and Thame constituency, meaning the existing boundary would be extended northwards.

The south of the new constituency would include the Wallingford ward, which is currently in the Wantage constituency.

To ensure the new constituency remains within the five per cent quota, the commission also wants to transfer the wards of Wheatley, Garsington & Horspath and Sandford & The Wittenhams to the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency.

If the changes are agreed, the new constituencies will be used at the next scheduled general election in 2020.

Mr Howell said he had no reason to object to the proposals but he didn’t like the suggested new name of his constituency.

He said: “To call it Henley and Thame, when it also includes Wallingford, is a bit of an own goal. I think we need to decide whether it should be named after towns in the constituency or if it should be a geographical name like East Oxfordshire or South-East Oxfordshire as that would be a way of incorporating Wallingford.

“The question has to be asked how you’re supposed to serve a constituency of this size when you have something like 150 villages to look after.

“It’s a process I will have to manage and must get to all those villages to make sure I know what’s going on.

“I would be comfortable getting to all those areas and I shall not be waiting until 2020.”

In Berkshire, the commission is proposing no change to the number of constituencies.

Of the existing constituencies, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Slough and Wokingham have electorates within five per cent of the electoral quota.

Of the remaining four constituencies, both Reading East, which includes Caversham and Emmer Green, and Reading West are below the quota. In order to ensure they are within the quota, the commission recommends transferring the Wokingham borough ward of Maiden Erlegh to Reading East and switching Mapledurham ward from Reading East to Reading West.

The commission is carrying out a public consultation on its plans until December 5.

Sam Hartley, secretary of the commission, said: “Parliament has set us tight rules about reducing the number of constituencies, and making them of more equal size, and we now need the views of people around the country to help us shape constituencies that best reflect local areas.”

To view the proposals, visit

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