Drive to scupper boundary shake-up
ACTIVISTS at the Liberal Democrat conference will support calls to scrap a far-reaching shake-up of Plymouth's political map.
The move comes after proposals for House of Lords reform had to be dropped in the face of entrenched opposition from Tory MPs, along with Labour's refusal to back a crucial timetable for the legislation.
Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claimed the Conservatives had broken a coalition 'contract' and that, as a result, his Liberal Democrat MPs could no longer support changes to constituency boundaries for the 2015 general election.
These would have a significant impact on Plymouth seats, most notably South West Devon, which would be carved up among three new constituencies.
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However, David Cameron denied a deal had been broken, and said he intends to press ahead with the boundary changes, which would reduce the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600 seats.
It is thought the changes could deliver as many as 20 extra seats to the Tories, by equalising the size of constituencies across the UK.
But without Lib Dem support and opposition not only from Labour but also Tory rebels, the move will almost certainly fail.
An amendment to be debated by party delegates in Brighton says the conference is "deeply disappointed" with the Tories and accuses Labour of "shameful opportunism".
It therefore backed the decision to withdraw support "for proposed boundary changes as a consequence of the Conservative failure to deliver on elections to the House of Lords".
Other proposals to be debated by the Lib Dem faithful include levying a tax on land that remains undeveloped a year after getting planning permission.
The party is hoping to use the conference to differentiate itself from its Conservative coalition partner.
Mr Clegg has also sought to draw a line under the tuition fees row by apologising for making a pledge he could not keep on opposing increases. It has been lampooned in a video which became an internet hit.
It comes as a Lib Dem MP argued the party had brought benefits to Plymouth despite failing to gain an electoral foothold in the city.
Adrian Sanders, who holds the nearby parliamentary seat of Torbay, said: "The influence of the Liberal Democrats in coalition has brought about the discount on South West Water charges which every household will benefit from to the tune of £50 each.
"It's this coalition government that's funded the broadband for Devon and Somerset, which will see us ahead of the country in having fast broadband speeds.
"The South West, as a low income area, has also benefited from the large number of people we have taken out of income tax.
"That's three things that have benefited Plymouth households."