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Conservative politicians walk out of Three Rivers District Council meeting in protest at electoral boundary changes
Conservative politicians stormed out of a Three Rivers District Council meeting last night in protest at proposed changes to electoral boundaries.
The extraordinary council meeting was called to discuss the council’s submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission (LGBC) on how they intend to restructure wards when the number of councillors is reduced from 48 to 39 in 2014.
The reduction in the number of councillors will save Three Rivers £41,229 per year in members’ allowances and will also restructure the district so all wards are represented by three councillors.
The proposal will see around 4,500 voters move between polling districts, meaning 95 per cent of electors will continue to vote at the same polling station.
But 15 minutes into the meeting Councillor Chris Hayward, the Tory leader, accused his Lib Dem colleagues of "pure, unadulterated gerrymandering" and said the item had "no democratic legitimacy".
He said: "What a shambles and a disgrace.
"And so desperate and underhand are the Liberal Democrats that they don’t even have the courage to submit their proposals to the LGBC with their party label on it preferring to hide their partisan proposals behind the council’s cloak of respectability.
"The LGBC are not fools. They will see straight through this sham and we and the residents of this district will help us to do so.
"The Conservative group will have no truck with such blatant gerrymandering. We will submit our own proposals to the LGBC which will put local people and their interests first rather than narrow party political gain."
Prior to the departure of the Conservative group, Councillor Matthew Bedford had commended the proposals to the council.
He said "It is in fact the least worst option in the areas where it has been most difficult to come up with a good option.
"We did try to have a consultative process but the Conservative proposals included some quite bizarre ward boundaries."
Council leader Ann Shaw attacked the Conservative’s proposal and accused them of attempting to separate the wealthy areas from the poorer ones.
She said: "A great deal of time and thought has gone into these proposals. We have got to accept the LGBC elects by thirds.
"The key thing is to respect our communities and we do not accept the Conservatives views which propose keeping people apart because they are not compatible.
"Our communities will be poorer if they are limited to social-economic groupings.
"When people walk out of a meeting like this it is because they have nothing convincing to say."
Labour deputy leader Councillor Steve Cox said: "We have seen the Conservatives’ proposal for 39 seats, it is on the boundary commission website and it is a moral outrage.
"You have got one area that stands out as a community, South Oxhey, and the Conservatives want to divide it three ways.
"The proposals that come through the council tonight are the council’s and we are most happy to support them."
The proposal - which was supported by the remaining councillors - will now be submitted to LGBC on behalf of the council.