Boundary review: Coalition spends £12m on dead policy

By Charles Maggs

Plans for a redrawing of constituency boundaries have been published at a cost of £12 million, despite the certain knwledge they will not go through.

The Boundary Commission today published its latest plans for redrawing constituency borders, reducing the number of MPs by 50 and making constituency sizes more equal.

The publications was branded an extraordinary waste of taxpayer money, given the deputy prime minister has already made clear the Liberal Democrats will not support the measure.

Nick Clegg said during the summer he would instruct his MPs to vote against the planned changes in retaliation for Conservatives blocking reforms to the House of Lords.

Online commentators pointed out the review cost was equivalent to 562 nurses – or 188 nurses if you only include the money spent since Clegg made his announcement this summer.

The deputy PM faced sustained attacks from backbench Tories in the House today with seasoned Lib Dem basher Peter Bone fronting the assault.

"The Conservative members of parliament delivered AV," he said

"We had the biggest majority in this parliament on a second reading bill on House Of Lords reform. So how can the deputy prime minister then vote against the boundary review and expect to remain in government? Is this his view of the principle of highest integrity?"

Clegg replied: "We are honouring the coalition agreement by leaving boundary review legislation on statute book but we're not, for reasons I've explained before, going to introduce the legislation before the election in 2015."

However Tory party chairman Grant Shapps said at the weekend he still hoped the planned changes would go ahead.

"I haven't given up hope for it because it was in the coalition agreement, because Nick Clegg came out very strongly and said it was right for the basis of fairness," he said.

The coalition agreement said that the boundary review would be passed as part of a deal that saw the AV (alternative vote) referendum take place last May, which the Lib Dems – who strongly supported the AV system – lost. However Clegg has since suggested that the boundary changes were also subject to the Lords reform going through.

Labour, which was set to lose out most as a result of the planned changes, said the reforms were "gerrymandering".

With most of their seats in denser urban areas with a smaller electorate, Labour MPs tend to be elected with less votes than Conservatives, whose constituencies are often more rural but with a larger number of voters.

Shadow justice secretary Rob Flello was angry about how the changes would affect his constituency, tweeting this morning that the review had "made a complete dogs' breakfast of Stoke South."

"Absolutely amazed at the stupidity of those making the changes. #mindless," he wrote.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls would also have been put in a tough position as the changes would see his Morley and Outwood constituency being scrapped.