BY YANN TEAR
Labour have accused Westminster Conservatives of a “desperate attempt to cling on to power” in the borough by proposing the abolition of Churchill ward in Pimlico.
The Tories, who have control of the local authority, lost all three Churchill ward councillors in 2014, although the ward currently has two Labour and one Tory councillor.
The ruling party has submitted a proposal to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) to scrap Churchill, which comprises the award-winning Churchill Gardens estate built in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Conservatives want Churchill ward merged with the adjacent Dolphin Square Estate, and given a new name – Riverside Ward.
The LGBCE has adopted the Conservative proposals in its draft recommendations, which are now out to consultation, and would see Westminster lose six councillors at the next council elections in 2022, when 54 seats will be up for election.
In its draft report, the LGBCE has adopted Conservative proposals for 17 out of the proposed 18 new wards.
Labour contend that the Conservative proposals aim to continue their current stranglehold on the council, where they hold 41 of the 60 seats, despite winning less than 42 per cent of the popular vote in 2018 against Labour’s 40 per cent.
The Conservative proposals were forced through the council’s General Purposes Committee in order to present them as ‘non-party political’, Labour says, adding that in other local authorities, ward boundary proposals are usually first put forward by council officers on the basis of community identity rather than party political advantage.
Labour also believes the move is down to a collapse of luxury housing proposals for the area, which they believe would have increased their projected voter base.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour City Management spokesman, said: “For Westminster Conservatives to propose the abolition of the Churchill ward as part of their desperate plan to cling on to power at all costs demonstrates the depths to which they have sunk.
“The post-war Churchill Gardens Estate has a long-established community and proud history, not least in its strong connection with the country’s greatest war leader.
“But now this tribute to Churchill will be wiped off the electoral map and submerged into a bland and anonymous sounding Riverside Ward, which has been gerrymandered to produce a Conservative victory in 2020.
“It is disappointing and surprising that the LGBCE has endorsed almost the entire Conservative plans in its draft proposals.
“It cannot be right or fair for the Conservatives’ obviously politically partisan proposal to be allowed to go unchallenged and I expect there to be widespread public anger at what is being put forward.”
Conservative central office was approached for comment by the London Weekly News but did not respond.
The draft LGBCE proposals can be seen at https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/16234
The consultation on the draft recommendations closes on December 9.