Lib Dems accused of "gerrymandering" as ward boundary changes in Darlington are agreed (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Lib Dems accused of "gerrymandering" as ward boundary changes in Darlington are agreed
THE LIBDEMS were accused of "inept gerrymandering" at a heated meeting to decide ward boundaries in Darlington.
In September, the Local Government Boundary Commission asked Darlington Borough Council to submit proposals for new ward boundaries with a view to cutting the number of councillors from 53 to 50 and ensuring that each represents roughly the same number of voters.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s meeting, Labour and the Conservatives worked together for weeks to prepare a map setting out proposals for the changed boundaries.
However, just 24 hours before the meeting, the Liberal Democrats submitted their own map for consideration.
Councillor Joe Kelley claimed the party were forced to draw up their own proposals as they were not invited to join Labour and the Tories.
He said their late response was in part due to him not being fully aware of protocol, adding: “This is an alternative and If we don’t offer it, there is no alternative.
“This is supposed to be the people’s choice, not just for those in power to keep a status quo.”
Tempers flared at the late submission, with councillors complaining there had not been enough time to properly consider the amended plans.
Council leader Bill Dixon accused the Lib Dems of making changes to save the seat they will lose if the LabCon map is accepted by the Boundary Commission.
He said: “You cry foul that you were not invited to the party by the big boys.
“You weren’t invited because we didn’t see the point in talking to you because you are not capable of doing the maths.
“Your map is the worst case of inept gerrymandering I have seen in 30 years of politics, your wards are drawn to save one seat in North Road.
“It is like theft in a multi-storey carpark – wrong on so many levels.”
The plans were branded the "last-minute homework" of a schoolchild by Coun Steve Harker, who described them as flawed and would face rejection for not following guidance from the Boundary Commission.
Councillors voted to approve the proposals from Labour and the Conservatives, which will see the number of councillors in Darlington reduced to 50.
Full details of boundary changes will be in tomorrow’s Northern Echo.
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