25 Feb 2013

All-out elections rejected

Glos County elections this May
At Thursday's Full Council the agenda was relatively - there were two motions - one on waste that I will blog on tomorrow and this one on a Tory motion to move towards all-out elections. At present we have something called thirds where there are elections for the District in 3 out of 4 years.

Interestingly in a Total Politics poll Councillors in England and Wales were in favour of all-out elections every four years; 71% of the councillors surveyed were in favour. Some 26% were against, while 3% offered no opinion. However councillors from district councils were against electing councils as a whole, in contrast to other local authorities. Only 17% supported all-out elections compared to 77% of metropolitan councillors, 87% of county councillors and 67% of London councillors. The highest support came from independent councillors, with 88% wanting elections as a whole.

I wholly reject the move to all-out elections especially at this time as we are moving to a significant change in May with the Committee system - this is not the time to make other big changes. Also
with the current system you get a constant renewal of the council. I also believe it encourages councillors to remain in contact with local residents as they know their colleagues are up for election every year. In short it strengthens accountability.

But there are room for improvements....indeed there are some nonsense anomalies like wards where there are 3 councillors elected in the ward - so the residents have elections 3 out of 4 years - ridiculous - Nailsworth is one example - it would surely be better to divide up the ward into three smaller wards - or better still move to proportional representation....if the Tory motion had had us look at issues like this and not been so prescriptive then they may have had more support....

In fact there are three options for local elections. Councils can either hold them all-out, meaning all of the councillors are elected every four years. Alternatively, half of the council can be elected every two years, or a third of the councillors go up for election every year for three years, with no elections in the fourth year.

Dr Phyllis Starkey, chair of Communities and Local Government Committee, supports annual elections. She admits that the three different methods of electing councillors hasn't improved electoral turnout, but believes it still holds significant advantages. "When you have all-out elections there's a huge temptation to concentrate on what's going in the council, safe in the view that you don't have to face the electorate for another three or four years. Councils can suddenly start communicating with the electorate again just before the election. In areas where political control is contested, it also means that the ruling group has a bit of a tendency to take all the difficult decisions and then tread water for the next three years so as not to annoy anyone, and get re-elected. Hard decisions that may come up in the meantime can be put off until after the election - issues such as school reorganisation for example, when the responsible view would be to deal with such things as they arise."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All out elections every 4 years also favour the bigger parties who are better able to resource the campaigns. In the case of Stroud District, 51 contests.