Just over a third of district councils do not have enough candidates to ensure all seats will be fully contested in next month’s local elections, new analysis from the Electoral Reform Society has found.
Across England 148 seats will be allocated without any voting taking place while a further 152 seats have been “guaranteed” for a political party as a result of wards being “under-contested”, the society said.
Of the 74 councils with instances of one or both of these circumstances, LGC analysis suggests 66 are districts. Rutland CC and Cheshire East Council were the only upper-tier authorities to have seats that were not contested at all, with eight and one respectively.
Rutland also had four seats that were under-contested as did six other upper-tier councils: East Riding of Yorkshire, Middlesbrough and Telford & Wrekin councils and Luton, Redcar & Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees BCs.
On Fenland DC in Cambridgeshire, 12 out of the 30 seats up for election are uncontested with a further three already guaranteed to an individual or political party. The councils with the next largest number of seats uncontested or under-contested were South Holland DC with just over a third of seats and West Suffolk DC with almost a fifth.
The Conservatives will gain the vast majority of both uncontested (93%) and under-contested (86%) seats, reflecting the political make up of the majority of district councils.
The seats affected represent just 3.6% of the 8,339 seats across 248 councils potentially up for grabs.
However, the society said around 850,000 voters lived in affected wards.
Chief executive Darren Hughes said: “It is frankly unacceptable in the 21st century for parties to have landed 300 seats without a single ballot being cast.
“The result is councillors who have no proper mandate from the people they serve. This lack of democratic competition is bad for scrutiny, bad for local services and bad for democracy.”
He claimed the “scourge of uncontested seats has almost vanished in Scotland” since the country moved to the single transferable vote proportional voting system for local elections in 2007.
The society analysed all councils which are holding elections on 2 May. This does not include county councils or metropolitan boroughs with all out elections.