There was fantastic news for voters coming out of Powys and Gwynedd today, as their County Councils have voted YES to public consultations on scrapping First Past the Post for their elections and bringing in the fair and proportional Single Transferable Vote.
Councillors in Powys voted 34 for a consultation and 26 against, with 2 abstentions. While Councillor in Gwynedd voted 43 for, 8 against with 2 abstentions.
Powys and Gwynedd County Council are the first councils in Wales to take this step since a law was passed in 2021 that gave councillors the power to move to the Single Transferable Vote (STV). The Single Transferable Vote is a fairer, improved way for us to choose our councillors – that’s been used in Scotland and Northern Ireland for over a decade.
Local elections in Wales leave a lot to be desired
In the last set of local elections in Wales we saw over a third of councils get ‘unearned majorities’ where a party holds over 50% of the seats on less than 50% of the vote.
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. 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 for who gets represented – and who gets to set the agenda locally.
Our campaign for local electoral reform in Wales
While I’ve been driving up and down the country talking to councillors, ERS members and supporters have been playing their part in campaigning for everyone to be represented.
A third of all councillors in Wales have been emailed by someone in their ward asking them to support the Single Transferable Vote. Supporters in Powys and Gwynedd have played a vital role, contacting their councillors in the run up to the vital vote. If you live in Wales you can use our tool to contact your councillors.
Even with so much opportunity we were still disappointed to hear a lot of misinformation spouted by people who like the status quo. One councillor even said that STV would end the proud tradition of independent councillors – something that would be a surprise to the 152 Independent councillors in Scotland, elected with the Single Transferable Vote!
The consultation is the first step, but to finally rid themselves of First Past the Post in time for the next election, Powys and Gwynedd will need two-thirds of their members to agree to a resolution before the 15th of November 2024. If you live in either council area please keep an eye open for the consultation.
By passing responsibility for changing the local electoral system to councillors themselves, and demanding a 2/3rds vote, these rules stack the deck against change. But Wales has a proud history of struggling for the vote in the first place, and has always pushed to be at the forefront of democratic change. Why should we settle for less at a local level?
It’s time our councils caught up and gave us a local democracy worthy of a modern, forward-looking nation.
Add your name to our call for local PR in Wales