political

Welsh councils look set to get the power to choose to switch to STV

The way councillors are elected could depend on the local authority they are in, if proposed changes by the Welsh Government were given the go-ahead.

Local Government Secretary Mark Drakeford wants to let councils decide which voting system they use.

“First past the post” is currently used but he wants feedback on offering a form of proportional representation…

“The white paper explores the idea of permissive PR in which just as the national assembly will be able to decide on our voting system, so will individual councils,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

“They will be able to decide between first past the post and STV [Single Transferable Vote] as a way on conducting elections in their area.

“It would be a decision entirely for the councils themselves.” [BBC]

I have mixed views about this proposed change. It’s good in that currently Welsh local councils have to use first past the post, and so that opens up the way to electoral reform at local government level. What’s more the alternative on offer is STV, rightly preferred by the Liberal Democrats for many years, invented in England and successfully used in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But having the politicians who currently have a majority able to choose the voting system which determines if they stay in office comes with many problems as well.

It also practically hands more political power to parties who are opposed to electoral reform as an anti-reform party running a council would be happy to stick with first past the post and keep its overall majority, but a pro-reform party running a council would have to either ditch its beliefs or switch to a different electoral system that would almost certainly then take away its overall majority.

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