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Reviews also take place in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Reviews are implemented in a similar way but are the responsibility of the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
What are local government boundary reviews?
There are different types of local government boundary review. The main one is an electoral review of an individual principal local authority. Principal local authorities are those above parish council level.
An electoral review might change the boundaries or number of wards, the number of councillors in each ward, or both. It will also name each ward or electoral division.
Who conducts electoral reviews?
Each part of the UK has a separate independent commission that is responsible for conducting reviews. In England it is the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, the LGBCE.
The LGBCE is an independent body accountable to the UK Parliament.
How are reviews conducted?
When conducting an electoral review, the LGBCE must adhere to certain rules set out in legislation. These are that the ratio of electors to councillors in each electoral ward/division, is as nearly as possible, the same. This is balanced against the need to reflect local community identities and interests and provide for effective and convenient local government.
The rules also allow for at least one round of public consultation on draft recommendations.
What happens at the end of a review?
Once the final recommendations of a review have been published, the new ward arrangements have to be implemented by a type of delegated legislation.
LGBCE must produce a draft Order and lay it Parliament. It will be in the form of “The [name of local authority] (Electoral Changes) Order 202X”.
The draft Order is subject to the “draft negative procedure”. It means the draft Order cannot be made into law if it is rejected by Parliament in a 40 sitting day period. Draft Orders cannot be amended.
The progress of a draft Order can be tracked using the UK Parliament’s Statutory Instrument tracker, Find a Statutory Instrument.
Draft Orders implementing recommendations of the LGBCE have never been rejected as they have been subject to local consultations before final recommendations are made.
Can an MP stop an Electoral Changes Order?
Members have, in the past, tabled Early Day Motions (EDMs) requesting that draft Electoral Changes Orders be not made. Sometimes at the request of constituents.
In practice, as noted above, these types of order have never been rejected. The EDM is a way for an MP to place the issue on the record, but it is unlikely to lead to proposed boundaries that have been open to full public consultation being rejected.
These EDMs are like prayers against statutory instruments but take a slightly different form because Electoral Changes Orders are not made when they are laid (regular SIs that are prayed against have already been made).
To register an objection to the proposed boundary changes once the draft order has been laid before the House, an Early Day Motion should be tabled in the form:
“That the draft [name of local authority] (Electoral Changes) Order 202x, which was laid before this House on ____________, be not made.”
Like other prayers against negative statutory instruments, such an EDM could, in theory, lead to the draft Order being referred to a delegated legislation committee.
However, the Committee would only ‘consider’ the draft Order. It cannot amend, accept, or reject the draft Order. It would be an opportunity for the local MP to raise their concerns and get them on the record.
An example of this sort of draft Order being referred to a delegated legislation occurred in the Second Delegated Legislation Committee on Tuesday 2 February 2016. In this debate the MP speaking on behalf of the LGBCE said the Commission considered local arguments against a particular proposal but also noted the Commission:
“…must not only consider local views, but come up with alternatives that can be implemented…It did not believe that any of the alternative proposals would be a better balance to its statutory criteria than the draft recommendations.”
The MP speaking on behalf of the LGBCE concluded:
“In conclusion, my hon. Friend made some important points, but sadly the commission cannot withdraw the order without starting the process all over again.”
Neil Johnson is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in elections.