CONSIDER AND DEBATE: Calls to change election cycle
Wolverhampton Civic Centre, Image: LDRS
Strong calls have been made for Wolverhampton to follow Birmingham into having ‘all-out’ elections to boost “appalling” turnout figures.
City of Wolverhampton Council is to consider and debate the issue of changing its local election cycles from the current three out of four years to one every four – where all seats would be contested.
All councils in the West Midlands elect by thirds apart from Birmingham, which moved to all out ballots in 2018 following the Kerslake Review.
But members of Wolverhampton’s Governance and Ethics Committee recommended the authority moves to an all-out electoral cycle and it will now be discussed by full council later in the year.
Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the Wolverhampton Conservative Group, said there were far more advantages to all out elections than the current system.
She said: “What is frightening is in some wards we have as low as only 18 per cent that actually vote. Which is appalling.
“If I was an MP, I’d certainly want to suggest legislation that said unless it was a least a third of the electorate voting, then it shouldn’t count.
“If you only have 18 per cent coming out to vote then councillors and parties are not being held to account.
“What you get at the end of four years could well be – and it has been proved – more of the electorate go out to vote. And I think that is the biggest argument for it.
“If it’s only every four years, schools won’t be disrupted, other community places will not be disrupted and its a great deal cheaper.”
Vice chairman of the committee Jonathan Crofts added: “I’m pleased the committee have cross party recommended to Full Council that elections should be held on an all-out basis in keeping with the majority of other Councils.
“We’ll have to wait until November to see if Full Council agrees with the committee, but what I would like to see as an absolute minimum is a public consultation.
“The electoral system should be determined by the people, many of whom will never have had a chance to have their say on how their councillors should be elected.”
But Labour’s Paul Birch said: “It makes absolutely perfect sense for us to have an alternative system to what national government has as a four year cycle.
“That is for local issues to be debated on their merits because we are here to represent the people of this city.
“They are best represented I would argue by virtue of having an annual democratic decision about who they want to represent them.
“After all, if you have a representative that is failing you, you might want them out. This is an opportunity for you to do it. Why should you wait four years?”
His party colleague Celia Hibbert, however, disagreed and argued all out elections would produce better accountability, turnout and more commitment from those elected.
Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Demcoracy Reporter
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