Surrey council wards could increase by over 1,000 residents per councillor by 2029 in new county boundaries

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Major boundary changes could see some Surrey residents change wards for the next local elections in a redrawing of the political map of the county.

Council wards in Surrey are to increase by over 1,000 residents per councillor by 2029 in new county boundaries which have been drawn up.

Around 70% of ward boundaries will change as the Local Government Boundary Commission estimates an increase of nearly 90,000 people who are registered to vote.

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The commission says the new layout – which would retain the 81 elected councillors we have today – would help the council to carry out its functions more effectively as it would even out the populations within each division.

Surrey County Council headquarters. Credit: Emily Coady-StempSurrey County Council headquarters. Credit: Emily Coady-Stemp
Surrey County Council headquarters. Credit: Emily Coady-Stemp

The commission is the independent body which draws these boundaries based on community ties, similar electorate numbers and which facilities (e.g parks, leisure centres) it makes sense for people to share.

Varying levels of public consultation on draft proposals took place between February 2023 and March 2024.

Professor Colin Mellors, Chair of the Commission, said: “We are very grateful to people in Surrey. We looked at all the views they gave us. They helped us improve our earlier proposals. We believe the new arrangements will deliver electoral fairness while maintaining local ties.”

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Recommendations from the Commission cannot affect the Surrey county’s external boundaries, or result in changes to postcodes. It does not have an effect on local taxes, house prices, or car and house insurance premiums. However, it may affect which ward someone is in.

Proposed Surrey County Boundaries (Credit Contains Ordnance Survey Data Crown Copyright And Database Rights 2024)Proposed Surrey County Boundaries (Credit Contains Ordnance Survey Data Crown Copyright And Database Rights 2024)
Proposed Surrey County Boundaries (Credit Contains Ordnance Survey Data Crown Copyright And Database Rights 2024)

The Commission is required by law to consider not the number of households, but the number of electors within each division. For instance, residents suggested East and West Molesey should be combined in a single council ward division. However, such a division covering the two borough wards of Molesey West and Molesey East would have 36% more electors than average. it was therefore not accepted because it would have a disproportionate number of eligible voters compared to other wards.

County councils elect its members once every four years. Surrey’s next election is taking place in 2025. Currently, the Conservatives are the largest group with 49 councillors out of a total 81 seats. There are also 16 Liberal Democrats, two Green Party, two Labour (and Co-operative) councillors, four Independents, and 13 from different resident associations and groups.

Changes to ward boundaries will be made so each councillor represents roughly the same number of electors. Recommendations are based on how many electors (ie people registered to vote) there are “likely” to be in five years after the publication of the Committee’s proposal.

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Approximately 876,454 eligible voters lived in the county in 2022, averaging at 10,820 electors per councillor. The Commission estimates this number will increase by nearly 90,000 by 2029: Around 964,825 Surrey electors will be divided up to roughly 11,911 residents for each councillor. Just 24 ward boundaries out of 81 will stay the same.

Over 900 comments were made by people and organisations to help decide the new divisions. Changes in response to what local people said include altering the divisions in rural areas of Guildford, in response to fresh evidence on the ‘community identity’.

For example, the village and civil parish of Ash was seen as more urban than rural, consequently moving out of the Worplesdon division and into Shalford. Additionally, Jacobs Well village was reviewed as having stronger community identity and rural connections with Worplesdon parish rather than neighbouring areas of Guildford.”

The Commission opted against having two councillors representing one ward in the Elmbridge borough as SCC argued that larger divisions had the potential to “dilute democratic accountability”. The Molesey Residents’ Association said locals would find a two-member division confusing and that councillors might have difficulty representing a division on this scale.”

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The changes become law once Parliament has approved them. Staff at the council will ensure that the arrangements are in place for the 2025 elections.