Stone councillors slam constituency shake up plans

Stone community leaders have branded plans to link the area with Great Wyrley as part of proposed Parliamentary constituency changes “bonkers” – and questioned what the town has in common with the village.

Stone
Stone

Initial proposals for the 2023 Boundary Review have recently been published and a public consultation on the plans is now under way.

The Boundary Commission for England is required to ensure the number of voters in each constituency is more equal and an independent review of all constituency boundaries is being carried out. The number of English constituencies is set to increase from 533 to 543 – but in the West Midlands there would be a decrease from 59 to 57.

Major changes are proposed to the Stone area. Currently the town is located at the centre of the Stone constituency, which also includes Eccleshall and surrounding Stafford Borough villages, as well as parts of the Staffordshire Moorlands such as Cheadle and Blythe Bridge and a number of rural Newcastle Borough areas.

But a new Stone and Great Wyrley constituency is being considered, which would see the town located in the north west corner of the patch. Although some Stafford Borough villages would be included, such as Milwich, Milford, Hixon and the Haywoods, the bottom half of the constituency would be made up of South Staffordshire district villages including Penkridge, Brewood, Great Wyrley, Cheslyn Hay and Essington, which is on the Staffordshire border with the West Midlands.

Members of Stone Town Council hit out at the latest proposals at their meeting on Thursday, July 8.

Councillor Jim Davies said: “It’s complete nonsense – it reminds me of 1930s America where they started fiddling with the borders to suit political parties. This is gerrymandering and it is completely absurd.”

Councillor Jill Hood said: “I have had a lot of residents contact me about this and one insists on calling it ‘Stone and Great Timbuktu’. I think he’s absolutely right how bonkers it is. I don’t agree with it.

“They are going to shove Stone in a corner – have we been that naughty? It’s always Stone. How many times have they tried to do this and it gets sent back.

“Last time they tried to shove us with Newcastle, now this with Penkridge and Hixon and places that are so rural. Who in their right mind thinks Stone will sit well with a rural surrounding?

“I think this group has a wonderful sense of humour. I really hope all our residents in Stone will write and take part in this consultation and object most strongly, and in a few years’ time we will find ourselves doing this again.”

Councillor Philip Leason said: “We have had problems in the past when we were part of Stone and Lichfield and we had the stupid banana-shaped constituency. The constituency we have got at the moment relates to Stone as an area.

“We have no relation with Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay. If you ask someone in the High Street where Great Wyrley is they have got no idea at all. It is completely ludicrous.”

Councillor Jonathan Powell said: “I managed to find three people who had looked at the suggestions and all three of them uttered the same thing – ‘what have we got in common with the West Midlands?’ That’s how they see it, North Staffordshire suddenly being tied in with the West Midlands.

“Their concern is we don’t have anything that automatically ties us with the area – do we have the same outlook and desires as people in Great Wyrley? They are probably wonderful people but have different outlooks and history.”

Recently-elected member Steve Walley called for the town council to make residents aware of how to voice their concerns about the proposals in the consultation, which closes on August 2.

He said: “I think there is a clear picture as to how they are against these boundary changes. It changes Stone from being at the heart of a constituency to a border town in the north.

“I think it is bad news for the town and we need to provide a coordinated response.”

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