Written Submission of Jim McMahon MP
I am Jim McMahon. I am the Member of Parliament for Oldham West & Royton and before entering Parliament served as Leader of Oldham Council. I have also been a councillor in the Failsworth East ward since 2003.
It is clear that in a desire to have minimal change in the West of Greater Manchester that significant change has been required in East of Greater Manchester.
The effect of this approach has meant that a number of the proposed constituencies significantly compromise community identity and lack coherent centres and accessible transport links.
For the purposes of this submission I have not sought to make suggestions which would impact beyond the Borough of Oldham or which counter any submission by the Labour Party.
I do however reference the submission by Oldham Council because of its formal adoption by the council. The proposal has been supported by all of the councillors within my current constituency.
The focus of my written submission, as with the oral evidence I gave focuses on community identity and primarily on the proposal to split Royton across two parliamentary constituencies.
Boundary Commission proposals
I recognise the constraints faced by the Boundary Commission in achieving 600 constituencies, each consisting of 71,031 to 78,507 electors.
Although the review is concerned with registered electors I am sure it is acknowledged that Members of Parliament support all residents. Oldham currently has 230,823 residents across all ages. Deprivation in parts of the borough is significant but concentrated predominately in the town of Oldham. As public services face significant reductions and many advice services either closed or reduced, MPs are often backfilling the gap in provision to ensure constituents are supported.
It should be noted that under the current proposals the Failsworth & Droylsden seat contains 78,502 electors is just five electors away from the maximum allocation, it therefore faces a higher prospect of further change in any subsequent review. It also currently lacks a coherent community centre and its transport links are weak.
The current proposal also creates a sprawling rural constituency in Littleborough and Saddleworth which proposes to split both Royton and Saddleworth. Transport links across this constituency will be difficult and in winter months sometimes impossible.
The proposed Oldham seat contains the entire Chadderton township and that should be welcomed. Chadderton has a strong community identity and many of the arguments against separating Royton can be made for Chadderton too.
The inclusion of Moston into the proposed Oldham constituency is acknowledged as a result of growing population in the Manchester area though it has little or no cultural or historical connection with the other wards in the proposed constituency. Part of the ward however is connected by the A663 Broadway to Chadderton and Royton.
All of the proposed constituencies in the Oldham borough area contain more than one local authority, compared to just one constituency currently. The proposals will see each of the constituencies working across two local authority areas.
The township of Royton has a strong community identity, a distinct shopping centre together with an historic town hall, community library and newly built leisure centre. The town centre comes to life on Thursday when its weekly market is held.
The proposal to split Royton across two parliamentary constituencies takes no account of community identity. Roytonians do not differentiate between the two electoral wards. To local people Royton is and always has been one town with one identity and a shared history. Its local government administrative boundaries date back to 1863 until its amalgamation with a number of other towns to form Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council in 1974.
Since the Great Reform Act of 1832 Royton has always had the same parliamentary representation.
In electoral terms the township contains 15,841 registered electors and around 20,930 residents of all ages. The vast majority of these residents see the town as one place.
The town has a number of voluntary groups who work across the area including the Royton Historical Society and Royton Old Peoples Welfare in addition to a number of sports and social clubs and church groups.
Royton North and Royton South wards each contain important elements of the town centre. The town centre bounds the busy Rochdale Road with shops and public facilities straddling both sides of the road. This road also acts as the boundary between Royton North and Royton South.
If the proposals are adopted the small town centre will be split in half with the main shopping precinct and market ground represented by one MP and the Town Hall, Library and Leisure Centre across the road presented by another MP.
Oldham Council submission
Oldham Council has submitted an alternative proposal (see Appendix 2) which gained cross party support at the full council meeting where it was endorsed. This included support from all councillors within the current Oldham West & Royton constituency and so it is right that I comment on it.
The proposal creates two constituencies which reflect community identity and which require only minimal change to each of the existing constituencies of Oldham West & Royton and Oldham East & Saddleworth.
The proposed Oldham West constituency contains 76,684 registered electors and 112,676 residents. The proposed Oldham East constituency contains 77,067 registered electors and 118,147 residents.
The proposal to move Medlock Vale from Oldham West & Royton into Oldham East & Saddleworth has merit. Both Medlock Vale and adjoining Alexandra bound Ashton Road share a host of local amenities including the local secondary school, community centre and a variety of shops including a post office.
It allows for Failsworth East and Failsworth West which are currently within the Ashton-under-Lyne constituency to move into Oldham West & Royton. Again there is a logic to this suggestion due to the local Failsworth & Hollinwood District Executive community forum is well established (including shared facilities at Failsworth Town Hall) and would be unified into one parliamentary constituency. Furthermore the main A663 Broadway connects Failsworth to Royton via Chadderton making travel by car and public transport around the constituency accessible.
‘Least worst option’
If the Boundary Commission is not able to support the submission by Oldham Council it would not be acceptable to the local community or necessary for electoral equality to separate either Royton or Saddleworth.
A minor change to the existing proposals (see Appendix 3) would unify Royton into the proposed Oldham constituency with no impact on any constituency outside of the Oldham borough boundary.
In order for Royton North to be brought into the Oldham constituency it would require another ward to move out.
When considering which ward in the proposed Oldham constituency could be moved to meet the electoral quota options are limited for the following reasons.
Coldhurst has a sizable and established Bangladeshi community which reaches beyond the ward boundary into Chadderton and Royton. The vast majority of cultural facilities shared by the community are located within the Coldhurst ward including the Millennium Centre community hub and a range of schools and religious facilities.
Removing one of the Chadderton wards would be no more acceptable than separating Royton which this option seeks to address.
This means that the only ward coterminous with the proposed Failsworth & Droylsden constituency remaining is St. Mary’s. It is also severed from the rest of the constituency by Oldham Way, a wide non-pedestrianised by pass.
By placing St Mary’s into the proposed Failsworth & Droylsden constituency it allows Saddleworth West & Lees to be brought in to the proposed Littleborough & Saddleworth constituency with the advantage of unifying the three Saddleworth wards.
The effect of these changes are as follows;
Oldham – Add Royton North, Remove St Mary’s
Failsworth & Droylsden – Add St Mary’s, remove Saddleworth West & Lees
Littleborough & Saddleworth – Add Saddleworth West & Lees, remove Royton North
I consider this to be the ‘least worst’ option based on the initial proposals and ensures that each constituency is within the electoral guidelines.
It has no effect beyond the three proposed constituencies which contain Oldham wards.