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RETHINK URGED ON COUNCIL ELECTIONS

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A report by the Constitution Unit, an independent think-tank, says introducing proportional reprsentation in counci...
A report by the Constitution Unit, an independent think-tank, says introducing proportional reprsentation in council elections should be considered alongside other local government reforms.

The Financial Times (p10) reports that ministers' current intention is to retain first-past-the-post for most local government elections until after any referendum on this week's Jenkins commission's recommendations for changing the Westminster voting system.

But the Constitution Unit warns that other aspects of the government's reform programme for councils would, once implemented, reduce options for subsequent electoral reform.

It says the proposed introduction of annual council elections would be incompatible with most forms of PR because of the problems of ward size. The choice of voting system for directly elected mayors could also limit the choice of systems available for electiing councillors.

The report therefore recommends that the government should 'consider the possibility of electoral reform in tandem with the rest of the programme rather than postponing a decision'.

Meanwhile, prime minister Tony Blair is considering proposals for a democracy referendum to be held late in this parliament which would combine questions on both electoral and lords reform.

The Financial Times (Oct 24, p6) reported that the joint referendum

could be held in autumn 2000 or spring 2001. Voters would have a chance to make their views known on the government's plans for a modernised house of lords and on Lord Jenkins proposals on reform to the electoral system.

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