Local democracy in Wales

Local politics in Wales isn't working. It's time for STV.

Do you want your council to scrap First Past the Post? Add your name

Unearned majorities

In Wales this time round we saw over a third of councils with ‘unearned majorities’ where a party holds over 50% of the seats on less than 50% of the vote, a third of all councils.

Take for instance Cardiff, where Labour hold 70% of the seats with just 47% of the vote. Or Ynys Môn, where Plaid Cymru have 60% of the seats despite winning 41% of the vote. This goes the other way too, across Wales parties lose as much as they gain from the distorting effects of First Past the Post. It was the Conservatives who suffered in Ynys Môn where they gained 19% of the vote but won 0 seats. Plaid, standing as Common Ground with the Greens in Cardiff, ended with just 2 of the council’s 79 seats despite winning 17% of the vote across the city. It really is an electoral toss up.

Uncontested Seats

Nine of the 22 council areas in Wales had one or more uncontested seats in 2022, with a staggering 41% of seats uncontested in Gwynedd and nearly one-third of all seats uncontested in Pembrokeshire.

When six percent of all seats across Wales are uncontested our FPTP voting system is failing. Locking over 100,000 electors out of the opportunity to choose who represents them at a local level is a sign of a major problem in our democracy and the considerable regional differences in number of uncontested seats results in a postcode lottery for voter choice.

What’s the solution?

The Scottish local elections, which use the Single Transferable Vote (STV), give us a glimpse of what a different system could offer; fairer results, increased voter choice and more people feeling that their vote matters.

Back in 2003 the SNP in Midlothian had 24% of the vote but didn’t win any seats. Independents in Glasgow only won 1.3% of seats with nearly 17% of the vote. That all changed massively in 2007 with the introduction of STV. In Midlothian, the SNP won 33.3% of the seats with 33.4% of the vote. In Stirling, the Lib Dems got 13.6% of seats with 11.1% of the vote – far more representative of their vote share than they achieved under FPTP.

ERS Cymru's Mat Mathias went on the campaign trail in Ayrshire with candidates, activists and local voters to find out what an STV local election is like. Watch his series of films on our YouTube channel.

In Wales, we now have a chance to follow Scotland’s lead. We hope councillors in Wales consider this compelling evidence, grasp the nettle and vote to strengthen local democracy in time for change in 2027.

Following the passing of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 a new provision has come into force allowing councils to vote to move to STV on an individual basis. To do this a council needs two-thirds of its members to agree to a resolution before the 15th of November three years before the next election (in 2027).

15 Nov 2024, 2/3rd Majority, 1 per term

Add your name: I want my council to scrap First Past the Post

It doesn’t have to be like this, a new law means Welsh councils can now vote to upgrade the way we elect our councillors to the fair voting system they use in Scotland's local elections. It's time for change.

Add your name to call on your council to scrap First Past the Post.

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Date published
Submission for

Response to the consultation on draft rules for local...

ERS Cymru
Date published
Submission for

Why councillors in Wales should back STV

ERS Cymru