Is it right to expand Newbury party by a third?

newbury town hallOn December 7th, Newbury local party members will have a proposed constitutional amendment before them at our AGM, which I think other local parties have also faced. If passed, this motion would expand the local party area to include the six West Berkshire Council wards (Birch Copse, Calcot, Pangbourne, Purley on Thames, Theale, Westwood) within the Reading West parliamentary constituency. So, no longer would the Newbury local party be exactly contiguous with the Newbury parliamentary constituency, as it has been over decades of boundary changes. On 7th May 2015 we would be fighting on five fronts: Newbury and (part of) Reading West parliamentary elections, West Berkshire Council elections and two political Town Council elections.

Are we ready for this vast expansion?

Within the current dearth of explanation for this change and mindful of historic rejections of this move by respected campaigners, my own view is “no”. I am writing this in the hope of ventilating the issue so that the membership can mull over the key factors before the AGM. I welcome further explanation for the proposal. I am ready to listen and learn.

The mooted increase comprises 11 council seats and an electorate of 23,871, causing an increase in our local party’s responsibilities of 31% – a third, effectively (based on the December 2010 electorate of Newbury Constituency of 77,898). It also massively expands the already huge land area covered by our party, making it a 41 minute journey of 26 miles from one corner to the other.

I am concerned that this will stretch our modest people resources too far, taking our eye off the rural/urban Anti-Tory ball of Newbury while we fight a different three cornered fight in what are, despite essential village hearts, suburbs of a nascent city – Reading. It changes the essential nature of our local party.

I also believe that this is counter to our principle of localism. Allan Macro in Theale, for whose campaigning skills I have the utmost respect, is the way to go. Local Liberal Democrats working their socks off for decades getting elected. We can’t expect miracles through control from a distant party HQ. Liberal Democracy is not about control. It’s about decisions and work at ward level.

Reblogged from Liberal Democrat Voice.

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