Greenwich borough is in line for four new councillors under a shake-up of its ward boundaries – and the public can have their say on where the new wards should be.
The borough is currently divided into 17 wards, which elect three councillors each by the first-past-the-post system. Each is paid £10,415 for what is meant to be a part-time role, others are paid more for holding decision-making positions, chairing panels or other roles. The process also does not affect MPs.
Most of London’s 32 boroughs are having the number of councillors they have reassessed by an independent body – the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. Lewisham and Bromley have recently gone through the process, Bexley went through it in 2015.
Now Greenwich is in line to have its boundaries looked at, and the commission has launched a public consultation on the new arrangements. This does not affect the boundaries of the borough itself, last changed in 1994, just those within it, nor does it affect MPs.
Greenwich currently has room for 51 councillors, although at present there are 49 following the death of Christine Grice in Kidbrooke with Hornfair and the resignation of Tonia Ashikodi, who was convicted of fraud. At the last elections, 42 Labour councillors were elected, with nine from the Tories – mostly in the south of the borough. By-elections are due next May, having been delayed because of the pandemic.
The current boundaries have applied since 2002, and since then the population of the borough has grown – particularly in the north. While Eltham South ward has only 9,532 electors, Peninsula ward – east Greenwich, Greenwich Peninsula and part of Charlton – now has 16,790. Both still have three councillors. The Eltham South population is forecast to drop slightly by 2025, while Peninsula is expected to have over 22,000 electors by then – over one in 10 of all voters in the borough. Each ward should have 5.9 per cent of the electorate.
Similarly, Woolwich Riverside – which also includes the part of Charlton by the Thames Barrier – is expected to go from 14,720 to nearly 20,000 residents in the next five years, as the Royal Arsenal continues to be developed and Charlton Riverside’s first new homes appear.
In February, both Labour and Conservative councillors backed a call for the number of councillors to be increased to 55, and the commission has accepted that.
A report to councillors said that as well as the growing population, social media had also led to a growth in councillors’ workload.
While Labour and the Conservatives are united on the need for new councillors, a political battle is likely to begin over the boundaries. Tories will also be noting some of the more affluent residents moving into new developments in the north of the borough. Across the river, Conservative candidates have been elected to Tower Hamlets seats on the Isle of Dogs as the population has changed, and the party will fancy its chances on the Greenwich Peninsula or in the Royal Arsenal.
The Liberal Democrats and Greens – whose strengths are in west and east Greenwich respectively – will also be looking at how they can take advantage of the electoral map being redrawn, while Labour will be zealously looking to protect and enhance its huge majority.
Smaller wards could benefit opposition parties – while the current arrangements are based on wards that elect three councillors, the new ones will be based on wards that elect up to three councillors.
Redrawing the borough’s political map will also provide the chance to smooth out anomalies in the current system, where areas such as Charlton and Plumstead are split across several wards. Thamesmead’s Broadwaters Estate is currently separated from the rest of the new town and placed in Glyndon ward, which stretches up to Plumstead Common.
Residents can have their say on the Local Government Boundary Commission for England website before 30 November. The new wards will be in place for 2022’s council elections.
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