As politicos in Southend will know there has been a lot of chatter about holding all up elections every four years instead of electing in thirds three out of every four years. It is something that is probably going to happen at some point but can’t happen for a couple of years anyway but it is worth a bit of chat.
There are two main points regarding all up elections. One is it will save money but on the other hand it will reduce the amount of times people get to air their voice at the ballot box. In principle I’m not overly down with this but I can see the benefits. We only vote once every five years for European elections and the same for Westminster elections. The turnout in the May local elections in Southend was pretty derisory and the less that is said about the Police & Crime Commissioner Election turnout the better.
However one quote really stood out to me in the article in today’s Echo and it came from Cllr. Martin Terry – leader of the independent group on the council and councillor for Westborough. He isn’t sure that these elections should take place on the same day as other elections (European or Parliamentary):
‘While we have got to save costs and having four-yearly elections would save money, the danger is when you hold them all at once the result can be skewed.‘
Being the type of chap I am let me interpret that quote in non political speak:
‘We are fine with all-up elections but our share of the vote goes down when other elections are on due to national issues, so we would not be in favour of all-up elections if they take place on the same day as a national or European election. Heck we lost Westborough in 2010 which we would never have lost if it wasn’t for the Westminster election on the same day. Seriously guys we like the idea of saving money but if it costs us councillors then we would be less inclined to support it.‘
The head of the Labour group on the council Cllr. Gilbert is worried about the proposed change because the benefit of the current system is councillors face a vote three out of every four years. Lib Dem group leader Cllr. Longley is supportive but also has that reservation about the effect on the democratic process.
Cllr. Terry is not right that the result would be ‘skewed’ by having local elections on the same day as other elections. What is true is the turnout would be larger and therefore more votes would be cast. For example Dr. Vel won Westborough in 2012 with a total of 7.3% of eligible Westborough residents voting for him. If that isn’t a skewed result then I don’t know what is. The more people who vote the better as that will give us a truer reflection of what the public want. For the sake of openness using the same rudimentary maths I got 1.2% of the eligible vote in that same election. Boy I really enthused the electorate…
If we do go all-up then it’ll be an interesting campaign as all the parties would need to find 51 candidates for one election. That might not be easy for the Lib Dems or the independents. You’d expect Labour and the Tories to find the numbers but for all the other parties that might be be a gimme. It would also mean parties would focus more on certain wards than they do now.
Who knows how it’ll play out but one thing is for sure – Cllr. Terry is fine with saving money but if it costs his group his support wouldn’t be as solid.