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'First-past-the-post' voting preferred in Torridge

Thursday, 11 April 2024 08:10

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Riverbank House, home of Torridge Council (courtesy: Philip Halling/Creative Commons)

Councillors reject Green Party's motion

A call for change to the “antiquated” first-past-the-post voting system has not been supported in Torridge.

Green councillor Huw Thomas (Green, Bideford East) asked fellow Torridge councillors to support a motion requesting that the government brings forward legislation for a proportionally representative voting system at local elections.

But the motion was defeated by 14 votes to 12 with two abstentions.

Proportional representation (PR) works on the concept that the distribution of seats won corresponds with the number of the total votes cast for each party, a system used in many democracies.

The first-past-the-post voting system works by voters casting a vote for a single candidate and the one with the most votes wins, even if they have a minority of total votes cast.

Cllr Thomas said variations of the PR system had already been used or approved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He said  more people voted after the introduction of PR in Scotland. Forty-five per cent participated in the last elections in 2022, compared with 33 per cent in the 2023 local elections in Torridge.

Cllr Thomas continued: “When I was elected for the Bideford East ward it was a turnout of 26.2 per cent, which I find quite embarrassing really.”

The votes for three Conservative candidates combined standing in the Bideford East election outweighed the votes he received as the Green candidate, he told the full council.

“If we had a PR system, it would probably be a Conservative standing here, not a Green. It’s not all about smaller parties getting a greater chance of representation.

“I got 387 votes, less than 10 per cent of the electorate voted for me, yet I’m here representing them. Is that a fair system?

“I think it needs improvement. What we currently have it antiquated and a form of proportional representation will give voters more of a say. It might help to get then invested in local elections and more interested in local democracy.”

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