Initial proposals for changes to parliamentary constituency boundaries which will come into force in late 2023, and so are likely to affect the next general election, are currently out for consultation.
Changes intended to make Parliament more representative by reducing variations in voter numbers between seats will reduce the Exeter constituency’s complement and entail moving its current boundary westwards.
At the moment all Exeter City Council’s electoral wards form the parliamentary constituency except parts of Priory, St Loye’s and Topsham. These are divided by the current parliamentary boundary, although few people live in the section of Priory that is over the border, much of which consists of Ludwell Valley Park.
The proposed changes would involve moving the remainder of these three wards out of Exeter. This would avoid the current ward split and reduce the Exeter constituency electorate of 80,676 to 71,713, firmly into the desired range.
Another 11,512 Exeter electors already live in the East Devon constituency.
The Ordnance Survey’s election maps site shows the current arrangements in detail.
The proposed changes would mean that the Exeter parliamentary constituency would lose the lion’s share of Priory ward, which the Labour Party dominates in local elections.
Exeter City Council’s July Executive meeting instead decided to put an alternative proposal to the boundary commission.
The committee report relied on the same number of voters residing in Priory and Pinhoe, somewhat simplifying the situation, to present the possibility of keeping Priory and jettisoning Pinhoe instead.
Arguments in favour included concern about which constituency would end up with the RD&E hospital, which is apparently in the “urban heart of the city” despite being located in leafy Wonford, but Pinhoe’s history as a two-way Labour-Conservative marginal did not feature among them.
Nor did the committee focus on the feelings of the residents of the rump of St Loye’s, not all of whom would necessarily celebrate being moved to a safe Conservative seat.
The consultation on the initial boundary change proposals closes on Monday, but there’s no need to panic if you’re not familiar with the city’s psephology: a second consultation with public hearings is planned for early 2022.