In a strongly worded letter, Jo urged the Boundary Commission not to move the boundaries of Glasgow City and East Dunbartonshire local government areas.
The proposal to change the council boundaries, if implemented, would mean 42 households which currently belong to East Dunbartonshire being reclassified as belonging to Glasgow City Council. Local residents fear that their children will have to move schools, the value of their homes will decline, their council tax will increase and they will lose access to services provided by East Dunbartonshire Council.
Commenting, Jo said:
“The Boundary Commission knew when the housing estate was built that the houses that fell within East Dunbartonshire were to be sold at a higher price, so if they wanted to move the boundary they should have done so before people bought and moved into their homes. It is simply unacceptable that residents should now be told they will no longer live in East Dunbartonshire, when they have become part of the community and planned their finances, their children’s education and their lives around it. There are no convincing reasons why the boundary should be moved, and I hope the Boundary Commission will consider the residents’ unanimous opposition when they meet on 15th April.”
The text of Jo Swinson’s letter to the Boundary Commission appears below:
Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
3 Drumsheugh Gardens,
F.A.O Laura Cregan
Our ref: KH/JS45795 30 March 2009
Review of local government area boundary – Glasgow / East Dunbartonshire
I understand that you are in the process of conducting a review of the local government boundary between East Dunbartonshire, which I represent, and Glasgow. Prior to any consultation taking place, I would like you to consider my comments.
Since this review was first announced, I have been contacted by a large number of those in the affected areas, mainly Wallace Drive, Wallace Gate and Wallace Place in Bishopbriggs, who are facing the possibility that they will be moved within the Glasgow City Council boundaries. Unanimously, they are against this.
Concerns of residents
The point that has been made to me time and time again is that, by purchasing a home within East Dunbartonshire, many of my constituents were doing so because they wanted to be part of a local community. This is most obviously reflected in school catchment areas, many people deliberately chose this place to live because they wanted their children to access the excellent local schools in Bishopbriggs. However, it is so much more than this. Several residents have contacted me because their children attend a denominational school within East Dunbartonshire, and so they have developed close ties with the local church because of its links to the school.
Aside from education, people are worried that they are to lose their ability to take advantage of local sports facilities they have used for years, clubs that their children attend, libraries and other community facilities.
Council Tax increases
Many people have contacted me who are concerned about the possibility of an increase in council tax, as Glasgow City Council charges more than East Dunbartonshire. In purchasing their homes, people have to ensure that they are able to cover the costs of running their home, as well as the initial costs. In these difficult financial times, when we are seeing council tax freezes across the board, I find it objectionable that this group of people will be asked to pay more council tax, which they will not have planned for, and through no fault of their own.
I understand that it is not uncommon for housing estates to lie across two boundaries and so, given the fact that these people have purchased these particular houses because of the local community, I find it unacceptable that they are now being asked to change at this late stage. As I understand it, the Boundary Commission were made aware of this matter when the houses started being built in 2002 by the developers, Wimpey. However, it was decided this was not a problem.
In 2006, internal guidance changed. The new advice stated that boundaries should be permanent, such as a road or a river. In light of this, this review is taking place. I think that it is completely unfair to punish my constituents for this. Having sought advice from the Boundary Commission, the developer marketed these homes at a higher price than others within the estate, due to their location within East Dunbartonshire. If the Boundary Commission felt that this boundary was so problematic, and I have seen no evidence of this being the case, then the matter should have been dealt with when the estate was first built.
Aside from the consequences for my constituents of moving them within the Glasgow boundary, it would also have severe consequences for East Dunbartonshire Council. As an MP, an issue that I am contacted about repeatedly is the lack of affordable housing in the area. If the Commission decides to move the boundary, there is a good chance that East Dunbartonshire Council would lose land that has been earmarked for affordable housing. I do not feel this is justified. Local councils have a legal obligation to provide housing for residents. By removing this land, the Boundary Commission would be removing land that the Council can sell in exchange for social housing.
While I appreciate the Boundary Commission’s new desire to align boundaries with geographical features, the negative consequences outlined above of moving this boundary far outweigh any benefit from the boundary being neater.
Therefore I strongly urge you to conclude that in the circumstances, the boundary should not be moved at all. As far as I can see the current boundary is not causing any problem to local government, residents or elected representatives, and no strong case has been made for this change.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Jo Swinson MP