Withington - Governance


Withington was anciently a township within the parish of Manchester and Hundred of Salford. Under the feudal system, Withington had been governed by its own court leet, and this tradition continued well into the 19th century. The court used to meet at the Red Lion public house on Wilmslow Road until 1841. Following the Public Health Act 1875, Withington Town Hall was built in 1881 on Lapwing Lane, originally to house Withington Local Board of Health, then later occupied by the Withington Urban District Council, under the Local Government Act 1894. In 1904, Withington formally became part of the City of Manchester. The old Town Hall building has been converted into private apartments with new-build apartments to the south (back) and east (side).

Manchester Withington is a Parliamentary Constituency which encompasses Withington village, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Burnage and Didsbury (East and West). Manchester Withington became the first constituency in the City of Manchester since 1929 to elect a Liberal (Democrat) MP upon John Leech's gain in the 2005 General Election, when the constituency also experienced the largest swing of that election, taking the previously 11,524 majority Labour safe seat by 667 votes – a swing of 17%. This was possibly attributable to the constituency's large student population. The previous incumbent of the seat, Keith Bradley, had held the seat for Labour for 18 years; Lucy Powell was chosen as the successor candidate to Keith Bradley in March 2007, to try to regain the seat at the next general election. However, Leech retained the seat for the Liberal Democrats at the 2010 General Election, with 44.6% of the vote (an increase of 2.4% over 2005); Powell came second with 40.5% of the vote (a decrease of 0.4%).

Historically, Withington was a much larger area than today. Since the district was absorbed into the City of Manchester in 1904, the three city wards of Didsbury, Fallowfield, and Withington took on their own identities and are now seen as distinct areas. The Conservative party could once regard this area as a heartland for them, with its largely middle class population and relatively suburban image. The 'flight of the middle classes' to rural Cheshire, however, led to many of Withington's larger homes being sold off for student flats. This resulted in a changing socio-economic structure that would ultimately favour Labour and more recently, for a time, the Liberal-Democrats.

In the 2011 and 2012 local government elections however the Liberal-Democrats lost every seat in Withington constituency and in the City of Manchester as a whole that they contested with Labour taking clean sweeps of 33 and 32 seats.

Today, the name Withington tends to refer to the areas roughly defined by the modern council wards of Withington and Old Moat, although fluctuating local government boundaries sometimes make these distinctions unclear. Withington and Old Moat wards are currently represented on Manchester City Council by three councillors each: Daniel Gillard (Labour) Withington, Chris Paul (Labour and Co-operative Party), and Simon Wheale (Liberal Democrat) Withington; Andrew Fender, Suzannah Reeves and Jeff Smith (Labour) Old Moat. Council elections took place on 3 May 2012 with each ward returning one councillor. Daniel Gillard and Andrew Fender respectively in Withington and Old Moat wards.

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