Ten years ago the eastern villages in West Berkshire were added to my Wokingham constituency, whilst Wokingham Without, Crowthorne and other settlements near to Wokingham were given to the Bracknell constituency. At the time people were up in arms. They told me that residents in Mortimer, Burghfield and the other West Berkshire villages looked to Newbury. Their local government comes from Newbury. They buy Newbury rather than Wokingham papers. They go shopping in Reading or Newbury, but not Wokingham.
I had to explain that none of this was of my making. The Boundary Commission is as near to an independent body as you get in a cnetralised state like the UK. They have to create constituencies of around a similar size once every ten years, and are not allowed to cross County boundaries. As a result,with so much new housing development forced on Berkshire, each time there has to be change. They start in the west, and have to cut the geographical size of the Newbury seat to reduce numbers, and so on across the County. It means the Parliamentary seats do not represent natural communities, and are not contained within a single Unitary District Council area.
I mention this now, because last night I was at a dinner on the very western edge of my constituency. The immediate anger over the boundary review may have gone away, but there is still confusion in people’s minds, and a sense that it is not right. Most people do not understand that local government at District level and national government at Westminster have different boundaries in many cases. Many electors are confused about what powers are held by central government and Parliament, and what is done locally by officers and Councillors.
I take up issues for people in West Berkshire as well as in Wokingham District. I write a seperate newsletter for the West Berkshire side. Anyone living in those villages who reads this blog should know that this is for them, as well as for people of Wokingham and the wider nation. MPs deal with issues that have wider significance. The shape of the Wokingham constituency should not get in your way when dealing with local West Berkshire Councillors on the local issues that often concern people the most.
It does all go to show how deep and local senses of identity are in the UK.