Caerphilly County Borough could be divided among four parliamentary constituencies if proposals put forward by the Boundary Commission for Wales are implemented.
Currently, Wales is divided into 40 constituencies for UK Parliament Elections, with each constituency electing one Member of Parliament.
However, this number is being reduced to 32 ready for the next General Election, which is scheduled for 2024.
But while Wales loses seats, England’s number of seats will rise by ten to 543.
The number of seats in Scotland will drop by two to 57, while the number of seats in Northern Ireland (18) will stay the same.
These boundary changes are happening across the UK to ensure parliamentary constituencies contain roughly similar size electorates. Due to population changes over the years, these boundaries have been redrawn numerous times in the past.
However, these boundary changes will not affect Senedd constituency boundaries, which will remain the same.
But will these changes just create confusion amongst voters?
What are the current constituencies?
Currently, Caerphilly County Borough is split between two and a half constituencies when it comes to General Elections.
The Caerphilly constituency includes the council wards of: Aber Valley; Bargoed; Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen; Gilfach; Hengoed; Llanbradach; Morgan Jones; Nelson; Penyrheol; St Cattwg; St James; St Martins; Ystrad Mynach.
The Islwyn constituency includes the council wards of: Aberbargoed; Abercarn; Argoed; Blackwood; Cefn Fforest; Crosskeys; Crumlin; Maesycwmmer; Newbridge; Pengam; Penmaen; Pontllanfraith; Risca East; Risca West; Ynysddu.
The Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency, which is split between the northern part of Caerphilly County Borough and the entirety of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough, includes the Caerphilly Council wards of: Darran Valley; Moriah; New Tredegar; Pontlottyn; Twyn Carno.
What are the new proposals?
Under the new proposals, Caerphilly County Borough would cover four constituencies.
Caerphilly town, Aber Valley and Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen would merge with the current Newport West constituency to create the new ‘Newport West and Caerphilly’ seat.
Meanwhile, Llanbradach, Ystrad Mynach, Hengoed and the St Catwg ward would become part of the Islwyn constituency, which will maintain all of its current territory, apart from Aberbargoed, which alongside Bargoed, Gilfach and the Upper Rhymney Valley, would become part of the new ‘Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney’ constituency.
Elsewhere, Nelson would become part of the new ‘Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare’ constituency.
The Boundary Commission has said it took geography, such as lakes, rivers and mountains, as well as local authority and council ward boundaries, into account when creating its initial proposals. It also said local ties, such as shared history and culture, were taken into account.
The electorate sizes of each of the new constituencies containing parts of Caerphilly County Borough are as follows:
- Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney – 71,079
- Islwyn – 70,735
- Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare – 71,281
- Newport West and Caerphilly – 74,349
Caerphilly County Borough Council will be unaffected by these changes, with places like Nelson and Bargoed remaining part of Caerphilly County Borough, despite being moved into other parliamentary constituencies.
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Why are these changes happening?
The changes are happening as part of a UK-wide shake-up of parliamentary constituency boundaries.
Earlier proposals would have seen the number of MPs reduced from 650 to 600 across the UK, but this reduction was shelved due to the increased workload faced by MPs in the aftermath of Brexit.
Under rules set out in the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, each constituency proposed by the Boundary Commission must contain a roughly similar size electorate – somewhere between 69,724 and 77,062 electors.
The shake-up is happening due to the fact populations change over time, so therefore boundaries need to be redrawn to ensure communities are fairly represented in Parliament.
However, the Boundary Commission for Wales had no power in setting the number of constituencies in Wales – that was decided by the UK Government.
Shereen Williams MBE OStJ, secretary to the Boundary Commission for Wales, said the proposals are “the result of months of hard work from our commissioners and staff”.
She said: “We’ve had to propose significant changes due to the reduction in the number of Welsh constituencies and that’s presented a particular challenge as we seek to develop a map which meets the conditions laid out in the Act, but also meets the expectations of the people of Wales.
“We’re confident that our proposals are a strong first attempt to create a workable map of 32 Welsh constituencies. The purpose of our initial proposals however is to start the conversation about how the new map will look.
She added: “Nobody will know your local area as well as you do, so get involved in the consultation and let us know your views.
“As we proceed with the review, we’re highly likely to make some changes to our proposals, so your responses to the consultation could make a significant difference.”
Earlier proposals put forward in 2017, which have since been scrapped, would have seen the number of MPs in Wales reduced from 40 to 29. These ill-fated plans would have seen Islwyn abolished completely and split between Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, and Blaenau Gwent.
Reaction to proposed changes
Labour MP Chris Evans, who represents the current Islwyn seat in Westminster, said he has concerns over the reduction of MPs in Wales, but said he was pleased with the proposals put forward by the Boundary Commission.
Mr Evans said: “I am pleased that, based on the proposals, Islwyn remains largely intact with the addition of further wards from within the Caerphilly county borough.
“It is imperative that communities are not split, enjoy good transport links and have a shared geography. The new proposals recognise this and I am happy the new proposed constituency will retain the Islwyn name.”
However, Caerphilly MP Wayne David has said he is “very disappointed” with the proposals, which will see the current Caerphilly constituency absorbed into four other constituencies.
Mr David said: “The Caerphilly constituency is a distinct entity, with communities in the Rhymney Valley having much more in common with each other than with the city of Newport.
“But these are only initial proposals. We have a long way to go before the changes are agreed and implemented.”
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney Senedd Member Dawn Bowden, stressed the importance of people making their views on the proposals known.
Ms Bowden said: “We already know that a lot can change from the initial proposals and before any final decision is reached. We have seen reviews abandoned in previous sessions of the Westminster Parliament.
“I therefore think it is very important that people make their views known on the proposed boundaries for Westminster constituencies and highlight any historical ties that are important to them, and seek clarity on potential anomalies.”
Will this cause confusion amongst voters?
The changes to the parliamentary constituencies could cause confusion, as voters will be in different areas for different votes.
Changes to council ward boundaries are also set to come into force from next year.
For example, someone living in Aberbargoed would find themselves in the Bargoed and Aberbargoed council ward when it comes to Caerphilly County Borough Council elections. They would then find themselves in the Islwyn constituency for Senedd Elections, but the Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney constituency for UK Parliamentary Elections.
Meanwhile, someone living in Bargoed, in the same council ward, would also be in the Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney constituency for UK elections, but the Caerphilly constituency for Senedd Elections.
Another confusing scenario would be for electors in Nelson, who will still be part of Caerphilly County Borough, and still part of the Caerphilly constituency for Senedd Elections, but they would be the only part of the borough represented by the MP for the Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare constituency – a constituency which spans three local authority areas.
Meanwhile, someone living in either Llanbradach, Ystrad Mynach, Hengoed or St Catwg would be in the Islwyn constituency for UK elections – but not in the Islwyn constituency for Senedd Elections, instead coming under the Caerphilly constituency for Senedd elections.
What happens now?
Following the release of the initial proposals, an eight-week consultation begins.
Members of the public will be able to share their views on the proposals with the Boundary Commission for Wales during this period.
The full proposals can be found at bcw-reviews.org.uk, where people can submit their views directly through an online portal.
People can also take part in the consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to the Commission in the post at Boundary Commission for Wales, Hastings House, Cardiff, CF24 0BL.
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