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Mike's speech to the Boundary Commission Hearing

Labour MP for Ilford South Mike Gapes has today (1st November 2016) given evidence to the Boundary Commission hearing at Havering Town Hall.

Mike has raised strong objections to the Boundary Commission’s current plan that will abolish the Ilford South constituency in its entirety cutting it into four parts and linking it with four separate London boroughs, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Newham and Barking and Dagenham.

The Commission’s proposals are however far more brutal in their impact and will destroy community relationships with a crude mathematical formula.

Mike has presented a new plan for Ilford South that would ensure that all Ilford Town centre wards are all in the same constituency. It also ensures limited change to the existing Ilford North and that the name of Ilford South continues to exist as a parliamentary constituency as it has since 1945.

Speaking at the Boundary Commission Hearing at Havering Town Hall, Labour MP for Ilford South said: “I recognise that the Boundary Commission for England have been given a very difficult task by the legislation which forces them to reduce England from 533 to 501 constituencies and as a result cuts the number of constituencies in London from 73 to 68.  The task is made even more difficult by the narrow 5% numerical margin of flexibility and their own decision to use local government wards rather than polling districts as the building block jigsaw pieces of this new construction. 

I speak with the experience of nearly 25 years as Member of Parliament for Ilford South. During that time my constituency has grown significantly in population and electorate so that there were over 140,000 residents and almost 90,000 voters at the 2015 General Election making it one of the largest in the country. The subsequent introduction of individual electoral registration and inadequate efforts by Central Government and local authorities resulted in a huge drop in the number of registered voters. In Ilford South there were just some 78,000 at the arbitrary December 2015 cut-off date. Although thousands more rejoined the register for the Mayoral and GLA elections and European referendum they are not counted in this exercise.   

The Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition government proposed and Parliament decided to cut the number of elected MPs from 650 to 600. Since then hundreds of additional unelected members have been added to the House of Lords. On that unfair absurd basis the Boundary Commission have been given the task of implementing these unjust changes.  

I have had to deal with the consequences of boundary changes before in 1994 to 1997 when I lost part of the Becontree Estate in Goodmayes Ward to Barking and Dagenham and gained Seven Kings and Chadwell wards from Ilford North. As a result my electorate was increased significantly from the original 56000.  I also represented parts of two London Boroughs and had to deal with two Local authorities for three years.

These proposed changes are however far more brutal in their impact. The relationship I have worked to build with the fantastic, diverse and dynamic, Ilford South communities over 25 years will be cast asunder with the stroke of a bureaucratic pen. 

Ilford town centre and historic Ilford has had its own Member of Parliament for almost 100 years. Before 1918 Ilford was part of the Southern division of Essex. Due to extensive building in the northern parts of Ilford in the first half of the last century including Clayhall, Gants Hill, Newbury Park and later Hainault, in 1945 Ilford was split into two constituencies North and South. Later Ilford North was expanded into what had been part of the Chigwell, Essex constituency with the establishment of Greater London and the London Borough of Redbridge in 1964. 

Ilford South has had its own Member of Parliament since 1945, a period of 71 years, being represented by just five MPs in that time. My impressive predecessors were Jim Ranger, Labour, 1945 to 1950; Albert Cooper, Conservative, 1950 to 1966, and 1970 to 1974; Arnold Shaw, Labour, 1966 to 1970 and 1974 to 1979; and Sir Neil Thorne, Conservative, 1979 to 1992; Although I am the longest serving Member of Parliament for Ilford South, I do not also wish to be remembered as the last MP for Ilford South!

The draft proposals of the Boundary Commission will abolish the Ilford South constituency in its entirety cutting it into four parts and linking it with four separate London boroughs, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Newham and Barking and Dagenham.  

I am extremely disappointed at the destruction of the historic Ilford South. However, I recognise that some change is inevitable. I would prefer to keep all of the existing Ilford South together but I recognise that this is not possible. 

Ideally, I would prefer minimal change with the retention of most of the nine wards of the existing Ilford South.  

I recognise that there is logic to the Commission proposals to reunite Seven Kings, and Chadwell into a new Ilford North constituency along with the bulk of the existing Ilford North constituency.  

This proposal returns the Seven Kings and Chadwell wards to the Ilford North constituency they were associated with for the fifty years before 1997. When I fought Ilford North in 1983 the constituency included both Seven Kings and Chadwell wards. And when I was elected as MP for Ilford South in 1992 my constituency did not include Chadwell and Seven Kings which were still in Ilford North. 

However, I do not agree with the Commission proposal to also move Newbury ward. The bulk of the existing Newbury ward has always been in the same Ilford South constituency as Valentines Ward, with which it is closely associated. It is in my view important to have the wards surrounding our historic award winning, and internationally "Great Celebrity Bake Off" famous, Valentines Park in the same constituency.

The Boundary Commission proposal to move two wards, Goodmayes and Mayfield, to Barking constituency is a regrettable but logical consequence of the arbitrary nature of this process. It also puts the wards and streets surrounding Goodmayes Park into the same constituency.   

Although there will be a continuing if amended Ilford North under the draft proposals, the proposal by the Boundary Commission for the total abolition of the  historic Ilford South constituency is illogical and unacceptable.

I cannot accept or see any merit in the Boundary Commission proposal to split Ilford Town Centre into two separate constituencies. The Ilford town centre wards have always been in the same constituency both in the period before 1945 when there was only one Ilford constituency and in the period since 1945 when Valentines Park, Cranbrook and the Ilford shopping centre, Ilford High Road, Ilford Lane, Ilford Broadway, Ilford Hill and Ilford Council and later Redbridge Council administrative offices were all in the Ilford South constituency. The Boundary Commission has come up with a strange proposal to put one part of historic Ilford, the wards of Loxford and Clementswood, into a constituency with Forest Gate, Green Street, and Plaistow in Newham; but another part of historic Ilford, the wards of Valentines and Cranbrook, are to go into a new Leytonstone and Wanstead constituency. 

The Boundary Commission has not taken any account of the community interest or historic community relationship of the four Ilford town centre wards. As a result Ilford Railway station and Ilford Bus garage and Valentines Park and Valentines Mansion will be linked to Leytonstone in Waltham Forest but Ilford Police station, Ilford High Road, Ilford Hospital Chapel, Redbridge Borough Town Hall and Ilford Lane will be linked to Plaistow and Green Street in Newham! This proposal also splits the Ilford Exchange Shopping Centre into different constituencies with different MPs. So if there is an incident outside one shop there will be one MP concerned and at the next door shop it will be a different MP. It means that if you stand outside the soon to be improved Ilford Crossrail station near the junction of Ilford Hill and Cranbrook Road your right foot will be linked to Forest Gate and Plaistow in Newham your left foot tied to Leytonstone and Waltham Forest. The essence of these proposals is to destroy community relationships with a crude mathematical formula. 

There is a much better alternative proposal which I support which takes the four town centre historic Ilford Wards and the associated Newbury Ward and keeps them together in a new Ilford South and Wanstead constituency. The new constituency is composed of five wards of existing Ilford South: Cranbrook, Clementswood, Loxford, Newbury and Valentines. To this are added the neighbouring Redbridge wards Snaresbrook and Wanstead and the Newham wards of Little Ilford and Manor Park. 

There has over the centuries been an historic association dating back to a reference in the Domesday Book, between Great Ilford and Little Ilford linked as they have been by the Romford Road, which is the old Roman Road, crossing of the River Roding. Today many residents of Little Ilford and Manor Park shop and work or go to school in Ilford. Indeed the Boundary Commission in its draft proposal recognises that relationship by joining the Newham wards of Manor Park and Little Ilford with the Great Ilford wards of Loxford and Clementswood. This proposal would also keep that link but on a wider and more logical and less destructive basis.

There is another benefit to this proposal because it would restore the link between both sides of Wanstead flats and put both parts of Aldersbrook in the same constituency by joining Wanstead Ward and Manor Park  and Little Ilford Wards together. This returns to the position as it was before the separation of these areas into different boroughs and constituencies in 1964. It would also link Wanstead Park with Wanstead Park Road which had been separated after the building on the A406 North Circular Road. Both sides of Wanstead Park would be in the same constituency by the joining of Wanstead with Cranbrook and Valentines.

The new proposed Ilford South would ensure that all Ilford Town centre wards are all in the same constituency. It also ensures limited change to the existing Ilford North and that the name of Ilford South continues to exist as a parliamentary constituency as it has since 1945.   

Most importantly Ilford retains two constituencies Ilford North and Ilford South and Wanstead and I will not be the last Member of Parliament for Ilford South.”  

To make your own submissions on the Ilford South proposals please visit the Boundary Commission website. The consultation period ends in December.

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