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Voting system reform could help end 'electoral deserts', says report

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There would be no “one party” councils in England if the country switched to the single transferable vote for local authority elections, according to new modelling.

The study, Changing the Political Map of Britain, published by campaign group Make Votes Count, said there were four councils where there was no opposition in the last council elections but the report predicted there would be none if the single transferable vote was adopted instead of the current system.

Similarly, the report by researcher Lewis Baston and Make Votes Count’s chair Martin Linton, said there would be a drop in the number of “electoral deserts” in which one of the major parties has been frozen out. They forecast the number of these areas would fall from 21 to four for the Conservatives and from 57 to 24 for Labour.

Overall the three main parties would all control fewer councils under the single transferable vote than they did in the last election under first past the post, the report predicted. Overall the Conservatives would go from controlling the 174 councils to 58 or 60, depending on methodology used in the estimates.

Labour would change from 93 councils to 68 or 70 and the Liberal Democrats fall from 10 to two or three. A move to the single transferable vote would have made little difference to the number seats Labour won but would have changed their location. The figures for council control vary from those used in LGC’s figures due to discrepancies in whether to include councils in which no election took place this year.

Every county council would be under no overall control under the single transferable vote, the report predicted. The net effect on transfer of seats between parties was a big swing from the Conservatives, which would lose just over 17% of their current number of seats, to Ukip, which would have gained just over 19%.

Control of the London boroughs changed little and England’s six unitary county councils would see little change in control – only Wiltshire would change from Conservative to no overall control but could almost certainly run the council in a coalition or as a minority – but the locally dominant party would tend to lose seat.

In the metropolitan boroughs, seven authorities would go from being run by Labour to no overall control as would two currently Conservative councils.

Overall the report said the single transferable vote system would end a situation where most wards are represented by three councillors from the same party.

The single transferable vote is already used for local elections in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland – and it has been recommended by an executive-appointed commission in Wales.

The report said the first-past-the-post system will have to change or else “multi-party politics will blow it apart”. It added that changing to a single transferable vote would mean voters would be happier and so the system would work better because more would get a councillor they voted for.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Report from the Electoral Reform Society's research director calls for more STV. Next on LGC, report from Bears, suggesting they are prone to defecation in arboreal environments. Come on - can't we do a bit better than cutting and pasting their press releases?

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  • Forsooth.........we know from other research that NOC councils in practice are the least efficient, effective and responsive and the least able to take difficult decisions.

    Were the 'voters', who thought that STV would make them 'happier', told this?

    In other countries, the expansion of 'multi-party politics' has lead to pre-election coalitions. Were 'voters' offered this as an alternative? No; I thought not.

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