Posted: Thu 29th Jun 2023

Torfaen Borough Council votes against changes to election process

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 29th, 2023

A Labour-dominated council has opted against changing the way in which councillors are elected. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Torfaen Borough Council had been asked to consider using a more proportional voting system at council elections, with a petition in support of the change presented to councillors in April. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Councils in Wales have the ability to ditch the first-past-the-post voting system, through which the candidate who gets the single largest number of votes is elected, to the single transferable vote system. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

That allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference, with a number elected to represent any one area. The system is intended to produce results which better reflect the range of support. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Torfaen had been asked to adopt the STV system by local resident, and Liberal Democrat campaigner, Brendan Roberts. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

But following consideration of his petition, which included a behind closed doors seminar for councillors in May, on the different voting systems the council has agreed to stay with the first past the post system. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

After the seminar 28, of the 40 councillors, replied to an email from the council and unanimously voted against pursuing the request to change the voting system. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At the full council’s June meeting it was formally agreed not to change the system due to a lack of support from members. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Referring to the seminar, which wasn’t open to the public, council presiding officer Rose Seabourne, Labour councillor for Fairwater, Cwmbran said: “I think we had a good debate about it”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

According to a report put before the council the main reason given by councillors, via email, against making the change were the financial implications “particularly during a cost-of-living crisis” which was cited by six councillors. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Other views included concerns that the alternative system would potentially weaken community cohesiveness and identity with the possibility of fewer representatives and a larger population in many wards. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

There was “broad support” for the principle of electoral reform but all four members who expressed the opinion included the view that “timing and local context ruled this out at this point”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At the last council elections, in May 2022, Labour won 30 of the council’s 40 seats with the remainder taken by independents, though a resignation from the Labour group earlier this year means there are now 11 independent councillors. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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