NEW proposals that could see radical changes to electoral ward boundaries in Darlington have received a mixed response from councillors ahead of public consultation.

The Boundary Commission has taken ideas from two different proposals to create a draft electoral map of Darlington in order to reduce the number of councillors to 50 from 2015.

Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, whose Labour group submitted a joint proposal with the Conservatives, accused the independent body of dividing communities for the sake of saving others and urged people to have their say on the plans.

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The Liberal Democrat group also submitted a proposal - previously dismissed by the Labour group as “inept gerrymandering” – which has heavily influenced the draft electoral map.

Councillor Joe Kelley, who submitted the Lib Dem proposal, said he was delighted with the draft layout and that it showed that his group was right to get involved with the process.

The draft electoral map suggests the borough of Darlington is divided into 20 wards – ten two member wards and 10 with three, with each councillor representing roughly 1,600 people.

Although parts of the electoral map remain similar to the existing layout, there are major changes proposed for the east and north east of the town and for rural areas of the borough.

Coun Dixon said he was confused at the proposed Red Hall and Lingfield ward, which he said did not make any sense as the two areas are divided by a busy bypass.

He added: “We are going to be looking at this closely and we would urge people to take part in the next stage of consultation.

“They have taken on some of the proposals from the Lib Dems and I stand by my claim that their plan is inept gerrymandering.

“I have a number of questions for the Boundary Commission about how they came up with these proposals – they have done very strange things to Faverdale, Harrowgate Hill and the rural wards just to save North Road.”

Coun Kelley said the Lib Dems were hopeful that the proposed changes would invigorate local politics and encourage people to stand for election in 2015.

He said: “The Labour/Conservative proposal had a lot of arbitrarily drawn boundaries while we were more interested in communities – the Boundary Commission agreed with us in creating Whinfield, Haughton and Cockerton wards.”

The draft proposal is open to public consultation until May 20 – people are invited to comment at lgbce.org.uk or email reviews@lgbce.org.uk The full report on the proposals can be found at lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/north-east/durham/darlington-fer