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20  February

Residents to be consulted on council voting changes

08/12/2023 @ 01:16
Newtown residents will be asked if they want to see changes to the county council voting system ahead of the next local elections in 2027.

Councillors yesterday debated whether a possible move to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) proportional voting system should go out to a public consultation.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 allows local authorities in Wales to choose STV as the type of electoral system to be used after 2027, instead of the current First Past the Post System.

Last month, the Democratic Services Committee debated STV and decided to advise the council against consulting as it could cost the council £50,000 of its “scarce resources.”

Other concerns were around the time and cost it would take to count all the votes.

Cabinet member for a safer Powys Liberal Democrat Cllr Richard Church argued in favour of STV.

Cllr Church said: “To be clear, we are talking about a consultation not a decision to change at the moment and we’re looking to spend about the same amount of money as we do on umpteen consultations throughout the year.”

“I can give you three clear reasons for change.

“Firstly, it gives voter more choice and power to their vote, instead of choosing the party you dislike the least you can choose the person you like the best.

“Secondly it takes power from political parties, too often and in too many places selection of candidate by party counts more than the election itself.

“Thirdly it checks one party control on a minority of the vote can’t happen.

“Let’s have a conversation with the voters of Powys about how we would like to be represented.”

He added that it could also stop the practice of councillors being returned unopposed.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies claimed the consultation would cost “£150,000” and that people would rather see the money used to “collect bins and mend potholes.”

“It would break the link between that local member and that local vote,” said Cllr Davies.

Earlier in the debate, council leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr James Gibson-Watt made a commitment that this consultation cost “would not exceed” £10,000.

Deputy leader of the Independent group, Cllr Graham Breeze said: “I am certain this move would see the end of Independent councillors in this county.

“The voting system will confuse voters.”

He pointed out the increase in costs of staffing the elections count and asked if his fellow councillors were happy to “put their hand ups to that” when Education and Social Services in Powys are: “under so much pressure.”

Cllr Breeze also pointed out that so far, all other Welsh local authorities that that had discussed STV had rejected holding a consultation.

Councillors went to a vote with 34 councillors voting in favour of the consultation, 26 against and two abstained.

After a consultation, the next stage would be a special council meeting.

At this meeting which needs to be held before November 15 next year, two thirds of Powys’ 68 councillors would need to vote in favour of STV before for it to be used at the election in 2027.

Changes would also need to be made to the ward boundaries in Powys.

There would still 68 county councillors, but the wards would be changed from the current 52 single and eight multi member wards to all multi member wards which could vary from 12 to 23.

This means the number of councillors elected in each ward would vary from three to a maximum of six.





By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service