Under the current Boundary Review proposals for Westminster MP’s constituencies, our town of Port Talbot would be cut in half between two constituencies. This would leave us split into two areas on the fringes of different constituencies, with MPs mainly based in Neath and Ogmore. Each half of Port Talbot would make up less than a quarter of the constituency of an MP based some distance away. We believe that this would be bad for our community, and bad for democratic representation for the people of Port Talbot.
The current boundary review proposals are to cut the town of Port Talbot in half along the river. The wards of Margam, Taibach and Port Talbot (including Station Road and the railway station) would be in a constituency dominated by the Ogmore valley area (which also falls within a different Unitary Authority area). The wards of Baglan, Sandfields West, Sandfields East and Aberavon (including the Aberafan Shopping Centre and the bus station) would be in a separate constituency dominated by Neath. This would cut Port Talbot right through its heart, along an old historic Aberavon/Port Talbot border that has little practical meaning within our town’s community. It would also, for example, separate the vital Steelworks from many of those who employed there, who would be represented by a different remote MP.
We recognise the difficulties that the new boundary rules impose on the review process, and have expressed our concerns both about these rules themselves (which seek to reduce the number of MPs in Wales from 40 to 29) and their required use of out of date electoral register information to calculate the numbers. There are extremely tight mathematical constraints over the numbers of electors in each constituency, and changes to any constituency borders have an effect on other seats around it. No solution is ‘perfect’ under these circumstances, but we believe that keeping a cohesive community like Port Talbot together within one constituency, all with the same MP, should be a top priority.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have proposed an alternative solution, within the constraints of the new rules. That is to place all of the wards that make up the core of Port Talbot town itself together into a new ‘Aberavon and Ogmore’ constituency. Our population would still make up less than half of the electorate, but would be the largest single cohesive settlement in the constituency. We believe this provides a far better balanced constituency than the current proposals, as well as keeping our community together and represented by the same MP.
In order to comply with the strict mathematical rules, the wards of the Afan Valley would then have to be included in a ‘Neath and Afan Valley’ constituency (which would maintain the link of all being based within one Unitary Authority area). We recognise that even this is not a ‘perfect’ solution, but the tight legal constraints make it the only viable option to keep the town of Port Talbot together in one seat (without causing chaos for the borders of other proposed new constituencies beyond).
The current MP for Aberavon, Stephen Kinnock, has also criticised the plan to cut Port Talbot in half, saying:
"The boundary review severely weakens our democracy and damages communities,
"In my Aberavon constituency, the new boundaries would cut right through the heart of Port Talbot, ludicrously separating the town's shopping centre from the high street.
"In a community whose future is already under threat due to the uncertainty around its steelworks, to split the town in such a way that puts the steelworks in one constituency and most of the steelworkers in another is to potentially weaken the community even further.
"Carving Port Talbot up to suit mathematical formula risks the longstanding cultural and historic ties that exist within this community and makes the revitalisation of its local economy much more difficult."
All political parties have now had their opportunity to present alternative proposals to the review team. Only the Welsh Liberal Democrats included proposals to stop Port Talbot from being chopped down the middle.
Please support us in sending a strong message that our community wants to stick together. Help us to stop them from cutting Port Talbot in half.