Lib Dems call for ‘fairer’ voting system in new council elections

Councillors for a new unitary authority should be elected using a ‘fairer’ voting system than the one currently used, say the Liberal Democrats.

Monday, 13th January 2020, 4:11 pm
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 4:12 pm
Northampton residents will head to the ballot box in May to vote for councillors for the new unitary authority that will launch in 2021

Elections are due to take place in May 2020 for the new West Northamptonshire Council, which will launch a year later in May 2021. It will merge the county council and the district and borough councils in Northampton, Daventry and South Northamptonshire under one roof.

It is expected that the councillors that win the most votes will continue to be elected to each of the wards of the new council, which is known as the First Past The Post system and is used in the UK general elections.

But Liberal Democrat councillors in Northampton are calling for an alternative voting system to be used. They argue that the Supplementary Vote system, where candidates vote for a first and second choice, would be fairer.

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Councillor Sally Beardsworth, leader of the Lib Dems in Northampton, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s got down to personalities rather than policies. People wonder what the point is of voting for parties like the Lib Dems or the Greens because they’re never going to win. It’s a shame that people vote for an alternative rather than what they believe in.”

The Supplementary Vote system sees voters cast an X next to their first and second choice candidates. If no candidate gets over 50 per cent of first choice votes, the top two remain and are allocated any second choice votes they received. The candidate with the most votes after this stage is then declared the winner.

The Electoral Reform society shows that in the recent general election, the Liberal Democrats won 11.5 per cent of the vote share, but won just 11 of the 650 seats, a share of just 1.7 per cent. The Conservatives meanwhile won a 43.6 per cent vote share, but took 56.2 per cent of the seats.

Councillor Beardsworth says that adopting a Supplementary Voting system would ‘ensure that councillors representing Northampton are more representative of the views of those who elect them’.

But her motion being passed will rely on the backing of local Conservative councillors, a prospect which seems unlikely. She said: “When you’re the winning party you’re not going to be looking at changing it. But we’ve had First Past The Post for years. It’s not a fair system.”

The motion will be debated at The Guildhall next Monday (January 20).