The Local Government Boundary Commission

Proposed Changes to the electoral boundaries for Borough Council elections.

In August 2022 the Local Government Boundary Commission for England and Wales issued draft recommendations for the rewarding of the Borough Council wards following the decision of the Council to retain the system of thirds elections. These recommendations included a proposal that Goudhurst and kilndown should be split with Goudhurst becoming part of a ward encompassing Matfield, Brenchley, Horsmonden etc. called rural Tunbridge wells and Kilndown being jettisoned off to a new ward comprising Hawkhurst, Sandhurst and Benenden with Kilndown being renamed South Goudhurst.

The consequence of a thirds election system is that the Commission require the Borough to have wards represented by 3 members each. With a new council cohort of 39 councillors this means that under these recommendations there will be 13 new super wards.  

Your Parish Council supported by Borough Councillor David Knight, in both his Borough and Parish Council capacities, vigorously opposed the proposal for Tunbridge Wells to retain 1/3rds elections and pressed the Council for all out elections which would have given more flexibility in ward sizes and enabled communities, particularly parishes, to have representation directly linked to their communities. Indeed, on size Goudhurst and Kilndown under such a system would merit its own Borough Councillor.

The Borough Council by a majority voted for all out elections, but not by the 2/3rds majority necessary to change the election system. We are the only Borough Council in Kent to be left with such a system and the electoral consequence of this in Tunbridge Wells is that there will be a representational divide between town and the parishes, and the parishes represent 58 % of the population.

Faced with this the Parish Council has submitted detailed representations and repeated those representations again recently opposing the split between Goudhurst and Kilndown, communities which have been united administratively and otherwise since before Saxon times. We believe that the arguments in favour of keeping Goudhurst and Kilndown together are overwhelming and that there is even a question as to whether the commission are complying with their statutory duties if the split were to take place.

One of the considerations the Commission has to have regard to is that of electoral equality.  If Goudhurst and Kilndown were to be kept together in the Rural Tunbridge Wells ward that would create an electoral variance of plus 15% and the commission have already accepted a variance of minus 14% in another ward.

However, another and we believe the most important consideration is community identity. On any view and at every level Goudhurst and Kilndown are inseparable. We ran an electronic survey of our residents and of those responding 97.5% wanted Goudhurst and Kilndown kept together. We will continue to campaign for our residents and we hope the Boundary Commission will listen to us and hear us.

Residents are encouraged to submit their own objections to:

Further submissions to the Boundary Commission on Behalf of Goudhurst Parish Council – March 2023

Goudhurst Parish Council’s submission in response to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council consultation as to thirds/ all out elections – November 2022

Goudhurst Parish Council’s submission to the Boundary Commission – October 2022

Appendices 1 – 7

Appendix 8

Appendix 9

Boundary Commission Draft Recommendations – August 2022

Map of Draft Recommendations – August 2022

Letter to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council – July 2022

Letter to the Boundary Commission March – 2022

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