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NDCs FAIL TO REVIVE DEMOCRACY

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An LGC exclusive by Mithran Samuel ...
An LGC exclusive by Mithran Samuel

The government's first experiment with new local elected bodies has failed to re-invigorate political engagement, with lower turnouts than council elections, according to a study.

The report on New Deal for Communities schemes by the LGC Elections Centre at Plymouth University finds that, in most cases, turnouts were lower than those for comparable council elections.

The report follows disappointing turnouts in the first elections for foundation hospital governing boards (LGC, 16 April), the government's second extension of the electoral principle locally.

Crucially, the study - believed to be the first analysis of elections for the community regeneration schemes - suggests voters may have been turned off by the sheer number of elections in their area.

The report puts a significant question mark against the government's claims that other local elected bodies, such as community councils or directly elected police authorities, could help combat voter disengagement.

Professor Michael Thrasher, who co-authored The new deal for communities: assessing procedures and voter turnout at partnership board elections, said: 'Personally speaking, the number of times that people are being asked to vote is bound to impact on the frequency with which they will vote.'

The report, which looks at 25 NDC board elections, finds that in 17 cases turnout was lower than in council elections for the same area, when adjustment had been made for all relevant factors. The study has yet to be published.

And NDC turnouts were particularly low in London, which the authors suggest may be the result of the parallel introduction of Greater London Authority elections.

Professor Thrasher added: 'If the number of elected bodies proliferates I can only conclude the number of people participating will decline.'

mithran.samuel@emap.com

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