Camden councillors rally against constituency boundary changes

MPs Tulip Siddiq, Catherine West, Mike Freer, Sir Keir Starmer and Karen Buck

The five electoral constituencies around Hampstead and Highgate could see big changes if the current boundary review proposals are approved - Credit: PA / BCE

Councillors across Camden's political divide are calling for Sir Keir Starmer's Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary seat to keep its historic name. 

If the Boundary Commission's initial recommendations were adopted, Sir Keir's constituency would be renamed Kentish Town and Bloomsbury. It would also take in the Tufnell Park ward from Islington. 

But the plan is unpopular with Camden councillors, who said many residents shared their concerns. 

On Thursday (July 29) members of the town hall's audit and corporate governance committee agreed to tell the Boundary Commission they wanted to keep the historic name. 

Cllr Roger Robinson said that “St Pancras has been the basis of our history going back to the dawn of time”, citing a fort where the Romans fought Boudicca and her Iceni tribe around AD 60.  

Tory opposition leader Cllr Oliver Cooper said he was in favour of keeping the name. 

“Some wags mischievously said Sir Keir Starmer’s constituency was being abolished because it no longer appeared in the list of names,” he said.  

Cllr Cooper added: “Let’s make sure that the story gets put to bed as soon as possible, so let’s call it Holborn and St Pancras, as well as the excellent historical reasons.” 

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Cllr Jonathan Simpson (Labour) agreed, saying: “The constituency name has included St Pancras since 1885. I don’t think it should be tossed aside.” 

His party colleague Cllr Paul Tomlinson said: “The feedback from residents has been very direct, very compelling and unanimous. All the residents I’ve spoken to want to retain the name.” 

Cllr Tomlinson pointed out that there’s been a place of worship on the site of St Pancras Church since Roman times, and there are also Norman links there, tracing the history over 900 years. 

Cllr Simon Pearson (Labour) thought adding in Tufnell Park from Islington was “a bit strange”, and said he would be surprised if residents did not protest. 

The commission recommends a name change for part of the current Hampstead and Kilburn constituency which would also take in the Maida Vale, St John’s Wood and Lisson Grove wards from the borough of Westminster.  

It would be renamed Camden Town and St John’s Wood. 

Councillors want to see it called Camden Town, Hampstead and St John’s Wood instead. 

There would also be a new West Hampstead and Kilburn constituency. It would be made up of West Hampstead, Kilburn, Fortune Green and Frognal and Fitzjohns wards along with three current Brent wards, and Harlesden and Kensal Green ward. 

Cllr Cooper said he has been “absolutely inundated” with objections over the possibility of Frognal and Hampstead Town being split up.

Cllr Oliver Cooper

Cllr Oliver Cooper - Credit: Polly Hancock

The proposed move comes as the Boundary Commission reviews parliamentary constituencies nationwide in order to balance the number of voters in each one. 

Another issue involves that the proposals would join see Camden seats cross three borough boundaries. 

The council’s solicitor Andrew Maughan said: “If you increase the number of councils you have to co-operate with, you increase the risks of something going wrong.” 

Mr Maughan explained in a report that the proposals “do not lend themselves to easily running any combined elections on the same day as a parliamentary election”. 

Stray ballot papers would have to be accounted for by each borough before they were taken to the right place for counting. 

He said even if there were no other elections on the same day, ballot boxes for parliamentary votes would be taken to and received from polling stations in the other boroughs. 

This, he added, “creates significant risks to the timing of the count and security of the boxes”, and “increases costs and overall declaration times”. 

The Cabinet Office would ultimately decide which borough takes responsibility for running the elections, Mr Maughan said.