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Third of Welsh councils have ‘unearned majorities,’ says Electoral Reform Society

15 Nov 2022 3 minute read
Picture by Rui Vieira / PA Wire.

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.”

Council decisions

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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1 year ago

Oh, turns out it’s really easy to get Tories supporting proportional voting systems. Looking foward to the ERS supporting STV or similar for westminster elections.

1 year ago
Reply to  Glwyo

It does, tho as you say the vested interests in the Tory and Labour party won’t support it. Catch 22 as they are the only ones who can get the legislation through Parliament.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
1 year ago

Allowing each individual local authority to decide on the electoral system used in their elections, with a two thirds majority required, is a total cop out! Welsh Labour I have no doubt spelled out to their leadership that if they tried to change the electoral system for local elections in Cymru that they would kick them out. This whole thing is a joke because Labour WILL lose out and as long as they are in power they won’t change anything in local elections.

1 year ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

we’ll probably end up with a mess of different systems in use all because official Labour party policy is FPTP not PR.

1 year ago

There is a petition on their site. STV is not the only PR system but it’s the fairest for large and small constituencies, the ERS has proved that. We should have it for the Senedd not closed party lists.

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