Third of Welsh councils have ‘unearned majorities,’ says Electoral Reform Society
Over a third of Welsh councils have “unearned majorities,” The Electoral Reform Society – which is calling for an overhaul of the voting system in Wales – has said.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) is calling for the traditional first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system used in local elections in Wales to be replaced by the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system used in both the Northern Ireland Assembly election and the Scottish local elections.
Following the ERS report Time for Change: The 2022 Welsh Local Elections and the case for STV, published today, Jessica Blair, ERS Cymru Director, said: “The 2022 Welsh local elections showed yet again why change is needed. These elections were rife with disproportional results, uncontested seats and saw a lower turnout than in 2017.
“In Wales this time round, we saw over a third of councils with ‘unearned majorities’ where a party holds over 50% of the seats on less than 50% of the vote, a third of all councils.
“Take for instance Cardiff, where Labour hold 70% of the seats with just 47% of the vote. Or Ynys Môn, where Plaid Cymru have 60% of the seats despite winning 41% of the vote.
“This goes the other way too, across Wales parties lose as much as they gain from the distorting effects of First Past the Post. It was the Conservatives who suffered in Ynys Môn where they gained 19% of the vote but won no seats.
“Plaid, standing as common ground with the Greens in Cardiff, ended with just two of the council’s 79 seats despite winning 17% of the vote across the city. It really is an electoral toss-up.”
The STV system has already gained some support, from both Plaid Cymru’s Sian Gwenllian and Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds.
‘Time for a change’
The ERS said the Scottish local elections, which use STV, give us “a glimpse of what a different system could offer; fairer results, increased voter choice and more people feeling that their vote matters”.
“Back in 2003 the SNP in Midlothian had 24% of the vote but didn’t win any seats. Independents in Glasgow only won 1.3% of seats with nearly 17% of the vote. That all changed massively in 2007 with the introduction of STV.
“In Midlothian, the SNP won 33.3% of the seats with 33.4% of the vote. In Stirling, the Lib Dems got 13.6% of seats with 11.1% of the vote – far more representative of their vote share than they achieved under FPTP.
“In Wales, we now have a chance to follow Scotland’s lead. We hope councillors in Wales consider this compelling evidence, grasp the nettle and vote to strengthen local democracy in time for change in 2027.”
In Wales, FPTP system could be replaced following the passing of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, which allows Welsh councils to vote to move to STV on an individual basis.
To do this a council needs two thirds of its members to agree a resolution before 15 November three years before the next election (in 2027), meaning they have two years to decide for or against it.
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