Local election reforms are step in right direction – but real democracy isn’t ‘optional’, say ERS Cymru

Posted on the 30th January 2018

  • For immediate release, 2:30pm, 30th January 2018
  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru. Jess Blair is available for interview – contact [email protected] / 07717211630

Campaigners have welcomed proposals to allow councils to reform how they are elected – but are highlighting dangers of a ‘patchwork’ approach to reform.

Commenting on the plans outlined by Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Alun Davies today, Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said:

“These changes put Wales at the forefront of democratic reform and a fairer franchise. Adopting a proportional system like STV for local councils would revitalise our politics, so it is fantastic the Welsh Government are proposing these plans.

“However, while it is welcome that they are open to adopting a better system for electing councillors, making this ‘optional’ for councils raises several risks.

“We know that there are huge problems with our voting system for local elections under the First Past the Post system. Nearly 100 councillors in Wales were elected without being challenged at the local elections last year – in large part due to a one-person-takes-all system which discourages genuine competition.

“Giving councils the ability to move to a proportional system offers a real chance to tackle some of these problems, but a patchwork of voting systems for the same elections risks embedding the current problems we see with First Past the Post, and creating confusion for the electorate.

“Given the problems we see with turnout and political engagement at a local authority level, it is vital we move to a system where council chambers actually reflect how people voted.

“This recommendation comes as part of a package of policies by the Welsh Government that are genuinely innovative and have the potential to address the barriers to engagement that are currently in place.

“A simple and proportional voting system should be on offer to everyone as part of that package and not just to the minority. We hope that the current proposal will be the first step in a fill move to a better voting system for local elections in Wales.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The ERS have welcomed the proposals to introduce votes at 16 for local elections:

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/votes-at-16-uk-government-must-follow-wales-and-scotland-in-backing-fairer-franchise/

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