The Local Government Boundary Commission is currently consulting on a new set of ward boundaries for Newham, and I wanted to blog about it to let Forest Gate North residents know and to encourage you to contribute.
So, firstly, a quick primer on wards, with apologies to those of you who know this already and to whom this will seem hilariously basic. Currently, Newham is divided up into 20 wards. (If you’re curious, you can find a simple map of them here.)
Wards are basically administrative areas. Each ward has three councillors, and in Newham our wards are then grouped together into ‘Community Neighbourhood areas’ of two or three wards.
I have often said that ward boundaries will always, by their nature, be slightly arbitrary. Particularly in London where one named areas blends into the next, and the names of different ‘areas’ of London overlap and grow and change even depending who you are talking to and their relationship to their local area. But that said, the idea behind this consultation is that ward boundaries should broadly reflect the communities they represent. The people living in a ward should, generally, feel as though they live in the same place, be using generally the same services and recognize the same landmarks.
So this is a chance to make your case, if you feel strongly about it, for how the wards should look in Newham, and particularly in Forest Gate. Currently we are split into two wards, and Forest Gate North is, as I describe it, ‘long and thin’, stretching east / west. Does this work for us? I am a bit aware, for example, of constantly juggling casework from Woodgrange Road between us in Forest Gate North and my colleagues in Forest Gate South. I am also often emailed by people in Forest Gate South who think I’m one of their councilors and whom I then direct to Forest Gate South councillors. This obviously isn’t the end of the world for us to have to email each other! But it must be frustrating for residents if they feel passed from pillar to post and if they experience delays as a result.
I’m particularly aware of the frustration that residents in Maryland can feel because their local area is split between not two but three wards. Whilst I obviously hope that we manage to link up at the Council (though residents can draw their own conclusion about how far this is true!), I do particularly notice the difficulties caused by ward boundaries when discussing concerns with the Maryland group about crime, where we are dealing with three different police local wards teams.
So should the boundaries change? Should they stay the same? If our wards were drawn differently, how should they look?
You can go onto the Local Government Boundary Commission website and have your say here. All the information about how to do that, about the process and timings, and everything else are all online here. The whole process is being run independently by the Boundary Commission, and the London Borough of Newham is responding to the consultation just as residents can.