Councillors divided over proposed changes to Islington’s electoral map
- Credit: Archant
Councillors are conflicted over The Local Government Boundary Commission for Englands’s draft recommendation to redraw Islington’s political map.
People in the borough have until October 7 to have their say on possible changes to Islington's ward boundaries, which could see Highbury West become "Gillespie", St George's renamed "Tufnell Park" and St Mary's moved away from its church namesake to the other end of Upper Street.
This would see the displaced ward renamed "St Mary's & St James'", with its former terrain becoming a new "Central" ward.
The independent commission also propose that Islington should have 51 councillors in future - three more representatives than at present.
Each ward would have three representatives.
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Cllr Gary Poole (Ind, St Mary's) said: "Even if the boundaries change I think there's still a strong case for the name of St Mary's being retained somehow. It has unique historical significance and has stood the test of time so far, and to be replaced by 'Central' ward, whatever that means, is very disappointing." He believes the ward's separation from St Mary's church would be a "huge loss".
Asked which seat he'd seek to contest at Islington Council's 2022 election, Cllr Poole, who recently quit the Labour Party citing alleged antisemitism problems, said: "Obviously things have changed recently; things are in flux at the moment so it's too early to make predictions about which, if any [wards], I choose to stand in."
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But Cllr Paul Convery (Lab, Caledonian), who stands to lose the bit of his patch containing HMP Pentonville to "Central", was more optimistic. He tweeted: "A nice little detail but, 20 years after its abolition 'Gillespie' returns as a ward. The very first Islington place I was a voter in 1979."
Islington Council leader Richard Watts said: "I am pleased the draft proposals support a ward system that respects existing communities as far as is possible, maintains the current constituency boundary and supports the structure of three councillors per ward, whilst making wards more equal in terms of the number of people each team of councillors will represent."
Islington's sole Green councillor Cllr Caroline Russell, whose Highbury East ward would become "Highbury", told the Gazette: "I'm glad the Boundary Commission listened to the Green Party about reviving the historic Gillespie ward name and its good to see St George's renamed Tufnell Park, which is what it is known as.
"However, I'm a bit mystified about why a few streets around Highbury Fields - Baalbec, Calabria, Gallia, Fergus and Liberia Roads and Corsica Street - are being hived off to be connected to Mildmay ward. I hope residents will have their say."
Professor Colin Mellors, chair of the Commission, said: "We are publishing proposals for a new pattern of wards across Islington and we are keen to hear what people think of the recommendations.
"Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for local voters. This means that each councillor represents a similar number of people, so that everyone's vote in council elections is worth roughly the same, regardless of where you live.
You can give feedback on this consultation via: consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/16235