Oxford Mail: Andrew Smith MP

FINAL plans for a controversial reshuffle of Oxfordshire’s Parliamentary constituencies have been unveiled.

The Boundary Commission announced plans to move villages near Bicester – as well as Radley, near Abingdon – into the Henley constituency.

The commission has published its latest report into the changes, after public consultation, but the plans now need to be ratified by Parliament.

The commission recommends moving Ambrosden, Chesterton, Middleton Stoney, Wendlebury, Arncott, Blackthorn, Launton and Piddington from the Banbury constituency into a renamed “Henley and Thame” seat.

Under the plans, the larger Henley constituency would also include Radley, currently in Oxford West and Abingdon, which will in turn gain the city’s Carfax ward.

Witney is likely to stay the same, and although no changes to the boundaries of Wantage are proposed, its name could change to Didcot and Wantage.

The latest commission report said the aim was to reduce the electorate of the existing Banbury constituency, which is “too large”.

It is said the changes to the existing Oxford West and Abingdon constituency would “enable the necessary reduction in the electorate of the existing Oxford East constituency”.

During the consultation, Conservative proposals to put city wards Blackbird Leys and Northfield Brook into Henley sparked widespread objection, as did Lib Dem suggestions that constituencies should be divided by rivers.

Oxford East’s Labour MP Andrew Smith, pictured, said the new proposals were “sensible and fair”.

He said: “I am very pleased they have rejected the nonsensical proposal to put Blackbird Leys into the Henley constituency, and am grateful for all the local people who put in comments to the commission on this.

“It’s also good that they have amended their original proposals so as to keep the present names of the Oxford East and Oxford West and Abingdon constituencies.”

Originally the commission suggested renaming Oxford East as Oxford, and Oxford West and Abingdon as Abingdon and Oxford North.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “Whilst I am of course pleased that under the current proposals I will gain Carfax, I am very disappointed to be losing Radley, given the representations that both I and my constituents made to the Boundary Commission about its clear cultural and community links with Abingdon.”

The proposals are likely to be put to the vote in the House of Commons next year.

Liberal Democrat MPs have vowed to oppose the equalisation of boundary sizes in retaliation for their defeat over House of Lords reform.

The changes are being proposed to make constituencies across the UK roughly the same size, within a five per cent margin on an average electorate of 76,641, while also reducing the number of MPs from 533 to 502.

  • Consultation on the revised proposals is open until December 10 – see http:// consultation.boundarycommission forengland.independent.gov.uk/