Students would '˜miss out' under new Lancaster University election plans

Student voices will not be heard if a Lancaster MP no longer represents the university, say two city councillors.

Thursday, 15th September 2016, 12:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 4:00 pm
Coun Lucy Atkinson.

Coun Lucy Atkinson said plans to put the university into a new General Election constituency separate from Lancaster would be a “massive shame”.

And her University and Scotforth Rural colleague Coun Sam Armstrong said it “doesn’t make sense because of what Lancaster students bring to Lancaster’s economy”.

The plans would see a new Lancaster and Morecambe constituency created in time for the 2020 election.

Coun Peter Williamson.

But the University and Scotforth Rural wards would join Silverdale, Carnforth, Halton-with-Aughton, the Kellets, Galgate, Caton, Brookhouse, Hornby and Arkholme in a new ‘North Lancashire’ rural constituency running from the borders with Cumbria and North Yorkshire to the outskirts of Preston.

“It’s an interesting one for students because you’re only at university for three or four years,” said Labour councillor Atkinson, who is herself a student.

“But it’s important to feel like your voice is being heard. I don’t feel the students would be represented at all and I don’t think we’d get an MP who would fight for students like Cat Smith does now.”

Coun Armstrong said: “I’m surprised the university isn’t being included, it’s a key institution in Lancaster.”

David Morris MP.

Meanwhile a top Tory said he fears Labour would win a General Election fight for a new Lancaster and Morecambe seat.

Coun Peter Williamson said current Morecambe and Lunesdale MP, his fellow Tory David Morris, has “ a lot more support in the rural areas”.

“For the Tories I can see the downside,” said Coun Williamson, leader of the Conservatives on Lancaster City Council.

“You only have to look at the make-up of the city council to see that what they are suggesting would add up to a Labour seat in Lancaster and Morecambe.”

Coun Peter Williamson.

But Coun Williamson said he could also see the logic in the proposals as Fleetwood, which has been together with Lancaster in a constituency since 2010, would be separated off into a new Blackpool North area.

“Only somebody from the moon would have put Lancaster and Fleetwood together,” he said.

He also said a North Lancashire seat could work as “many of the rural areas share the same issues”.

The proposals to create the new constituencies are part of a nationwide re-drawing of electoral boundaries by the Boundary Commission – intended to come into effect in 2020.

David Morris MP.

A public hearing into the plans will be held in Lancaster on October 24-25.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, called the plans “ludicrous” and “a slap in the face to Morecambe and Heysham”.

He has also accused the Labour-run Lancaster City Council of supplying “incorrect figures” to the commission.

Mr Morris said: “The Commission had to use the December 2015 Electoral Roll figures, I have these figures and they are different to those given to the commission and lots of voters have been missed off the official records.

“I have already written to the commission and will be following this up with the council to ensure the figures are corrected.”

But a council spokesman said: “The figures supplied for the purposes of the Parliamentary Boundary Review are those included in a report generated directly from our electoral management system and are in a specific report format which cannot be amended.

“The figures referred to by David Morris MP were in fact generated in a report on electorate requested by his office in March of this year. On checking the figures supplied to his office, it is clear that they are based on a local election franchise (people eligible to vote in local elections) and not on the parliamentary franchise.

“For example, citizens of other European Union (EU) countries who are resident in the UK can vote in local elections but not Parliamentary elections.

“As the two sets of information were not created on the same franchise, there is a disparity in the figures.”

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