A new parliamentary constituency crossing the Norfolk and Suffolk border has been proposed. Could it work? NOAH VICKERS reports


It has been jokingly described as the hardest job in politics - an MP representing constituents in both Norfolk and Suffolk. 

Yet that is the role proposed by the Boundary Commission as part of its suggested revision of the electoral map of the UK, to ensure parliamentary seats have roughly the same number of voters

The Commission has recommended the creation of a new Westminster constituency called ‘Waveney Valley’, which would take parts of existing seats in Norfolk and Suffolk to form a new one.

The cross-border constituency, which would be the first of its kind in the region, would unite the Norfolk towns of Diss and Harleston with the Suffolk towns of Bungay, Halesworth and Eye. 

So would it work? Would such cooperation help those border communities, or would they suffer from falling outside the traditional county confines, at least in parliamentary terms?

Eric Taylor, the mayor of Diss, said there was a “certain logic to the idea” and that his town had been frustrated by decisions made in Suffolk, such as nearby planning applications, having an impact across the border. 

He warned, however: “There are definitely people with a Norfolk identity in this area.

Eastern Daily Press: Eric Taylor, mayor of DissEric Taylor, mayor of Diss (Image: Eric Taylor)

“There’s a bitter rivalry between Norfolk and Suffolk.

“I’m sure in time that can be sorted out.”

He added that South Norfolk Council’s decision to move their headquarters from Long Stratton to the edge of Norwich had “alienate[d] this part of Norfolk a little bit” and that a cross-border MP, centred on Diss, could help the town feel closer to the decision-making process of politics.

Over the border, Bungay mayor Tony Dawes said: “We did as a council have a look at the suggestions.

Eastern Daily Press: Tony Dawes, mayor of BungayTony Dawes, mayor of Bungay (Image: Bungay Town Council)

“Originally they said we’d be [in a seat] going all the way pretty much to Bury St Edmunds, which seemed crazy. A sort of long, thin, constituency. That was awful. 

“This definitely looks like an improvement. It may work. 

“We’ve got Earsham and Ditchingham right on our borders, on the other side of the Waveney, but Bungay is the service town for those communities.

“It’s where they come to shop, it’s where they see the doctors. 

“So being in the same constituency makes a lot of sense from that point of view.” 

Johnnie Walker, mayor of Eye, was also positive about the idea: “We’ve got a few towns around this area.

Eastern Daily Press: Johnnie Walker, mayor of EyeJohnnie Walker, mayor of Eye (Image: Johnnie Walker)

“I don’t see any reason why shouldn’t have them together… because at the moment we don’t have them working together. 

He added that having one MP in the area could help bridge gaps in the provision of services for people who regularly cross the border. 

“I can go to Specsavers in Diss and have an eye test, but I can’t have a hearing test, because I don’t live in Norfolk. 

“There’s a disparity between the different groups which is ridiculous - it’s the 21st century for goodness sake.”

A consultation on the new map of revised constituency proposals is open until December 5.

The public is invited to view and comment on the new map at https://www.bcereviews.org.uk/