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Time to overhaul ‘outdated’ electoral system, say Lincolnshire councillors

Councillors from across Lincolnshire are advocating for an overhaul of the ‘outdated’ electoral system, citing it as a major cause for public disengagement with politics.

Local representatives from various parts of the county are pushing for a transition from the current First Past the Post (FPTP) system to a Proportional Representation (PR) system, where seat allocation closely mirrors the proportion of total votes received by each party.

This comes after the recent decision by members of Bishop’s Stortford Town Council to pass a motion urging the government to implement PR in both local and general elections.

South Kesteven District Council leader Coun Ashley Baxter. Photo: James Turner
South Kesteven District Council leader Coun Ashley Baxter. Photo: James Turner

During last week’s full South Kesteven District Council meeting, a motion proposed by Coun Vanessa Smith (Green Party) urged SKDC to write to the government advocating for a change in the “outdated system,” was slated for debate but regrettably couldn’t proceed due to time constraints.

The representative for Casewick ward highlighted that the UK and Belarus are the only nations utilising the FPTP system, while PR is employed in the election of parliaments in over 80 countries worldwide.

She wrote: “Proportional Representation ensures all votes count, have equal value, and that seats won match votes cast. Under PR, MPs and Parliaments better reflect the age, gender and protected characteristics of both local communities and the nation.

Coun Martin Christopher in Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve Photo: LDRS
Coun Martin Christopher in Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve Photo: LDRS

“MPs better reflecting the communities they represent in turn leads to improved decision-making, wider participation and increased levels of ownership of decisions taken.”

Coun Smith added: “PR is already used to elect the parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So why not Westminster?”

Newly elected SKDC leader Ashley Baxter (Independent) shared his thoughts, adding: “We need a fundamental review of how we select candidates in a fair fashion.”

Coun Neil Murray
Coun Neil Murray

He added: “Almost 100 years ago, the voting system was changed to allow women the right to vote. It seems to me that some people think that’s the end of voting reform – that’s crackers!

“It is self-evident, especially to those in South Holland and the Deepings where we have the highest Conservative MP majority in the country, that even there, many people are not getting any reflection in how they voted.”

The Independent leader also indicated his support for a system that considers people’s second and third choices. “I’m very much an advocate of making votes fair,” he concluded.

North Kesteven District Council leader Richard Wright. Photo: James Turner
North Kesteven District Council leader Richard Wright. Photo: James Turner

West Lindsey district councillor Matthew Boles and City of Lincoln councillor Martin Christopher (both Liberal Democrats) highlighted that this is a key issue their party has been actively working to change.

“In a Proportional Representation system, decision-making reflects the diverse opinions of the public, preventing a minority from having undue influence,” said Coun Christopher.

“Unlike the winner-takes-all approach of FPTP, PR ensures that a broader spectrum of views is represented and considered, fostering collaboration among parties.

“This shift away from polarised politics allows for more inclusive decision-making, promoting the importance of cooperation in a diverse political landscape.

“A more balanced representation, even with the inclusion of smaller parties, could lead to a more nuanced and comprehensive governance and I have always felt this would help more voters engaged in our election process.”

Coun Boles added: “We believe that Proportional Representation, by its very name, is a fairer system.”

City of Lincoln councillor Neil Murray (Labour) also shared a similar view.

He commented: “I think there is a growing number of people that would support PR.

“I think it’s time for a change so that when you cast your vote, under a proportional system, you have some chance of representation.”

Meanwhile, North Kesteven District Council leader Richard Wright (Conservative) insisted that the government has ‘more pressing matters’ to attend to currently.

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“At the moment, the way we vote is not a concern to me,” he said following Monday’s Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee meeting.

“Do we want to be taking time out now to be talking about changing the system when there are so many things the government should be getting on with?”

In May 2011, a significant 67.9% of voters rejected the proposal to switch the electoral system to the Alternative Vote (AV).

Under the AV system, voters would rank their top three choices on the ballot.

Candidates with the fewest votes would be progressively eliminated in subsequent rounds until a winner with an overall majority was determined.

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