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Change election cycle in Lincoln and save taxpayers £333,000, say councillors

Opposition councillors in Lincoln say it’s time to reconsider a proposal for the City of Lincoln Council to hold all-out elections every four years, instead of yearly elections — saving taxpayers £333,000 in the process.

The city council currently holds yearly local elections for three years, where one out of three councillors for each of the city’s 11 wards are elected.

After a pause in the fourth year, the process restarts.

is it time to change the election cycle?
is it time to change the election cycle?

However, the rising costs of these frequent elections, with the most recent one in 2023 amounting to £166,450, have sparked a growing consensus about the need for a change.

Back in 2010, following a government directive for new electoral arrangements, an amendment was proposed that required the council to vote on these changes.

The Conservative group, which held power at the time, supported the idea of elections every four years, aligning with the practice of other district councils. However, this proposal failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for approval, with the Labour group rejecting it.

Coun Ric Metcalfe. Photo: James Turner
Coun Ric Metcalfe. Photo: James Turner

As both Nottingham City Council and Birmingham City Council recently issuing Section 114 notices, effectively declaring themselves bankrupt, there’s a belief that altering the election cycle could result in significant cost savings.

Coun Eddie Strengiel (Conservative) reflected on the last proposal from over a decade ago, noting that an election at that time cost roughly £70,000, suggesting the change would have saved taxpayers the equivalent of two elections, or around £140,000 in total.

If the city council were to change the election cycle now, the savings could amount to around £332,900.

Coun Tom Dyer
Coun Tom Dyer

Local Liberal Democrat leader, CounClare Smalley, mentioned that it was probably time to reconsider the proposal for changing the election cycle, as it could enhance consistency and enable councillors to concentrate on their duties.

She remarked: “I think it probably is time to revisit the proposal; councils should be looking to save money.

“As elected members, we are responsible for spending that money, and maybe if people had four-year terms, they would be able to get more done.

Coun Clare Smalley. Photo: James Turner
Coun Clare Smalley. Photo: James Turner

“A lot of other local authorities around us don’t have the same system. I think for a lot of people it’s quite confusing that they’re having to vote every year.”

The representative for Abbey ward further argued that adopting the change could result in greater consistency within committee structures.

She added: “As leaders, we have to decide what committees people are going on every year, and having new people elected you are constantly having to change and review that.”

Local Conservative leader Coun Tom Dyer shared a similar view, adding: “I have long-held the view that Lincoln should come into line with the other Lincolnshire district councils.”

The representative for Witham ward said that changing the election cycle could be more convenient but also encouraged the council to gather input from residents on the matter.

He added: “It probably makes more sense, from a logical and cost point of view, for it to be a four-year cycle and having everyone elected at the same point.”

Coun Dyer also pointed out that the City Council is currently in the midst of its budget-setting process for the year. As part of this, he inquired about the cost of cleaning all the bus shelters around the city, to which he was quoted roughly £7,000.

“Think how much the council could do with that money to impact local residents rather than hosting local elections that can all be combined as one,” he continued.

In response, the council pointed out that the cost of hosting an election significantly decreases when it runs in tandem with other elections, such as the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections this year, as costs can be shared.

City of Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe (Labour) stated: “The option to revert to elections every four years is something that stays under ongoing consideration by the city council. There are pros and cons for both this and our current approach of holding elections in thirds on an annual basis.

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“Our current option is deemed the most appropriate for the city as it helps strengthen the council’s democratic ties with Lincoln’s electorate by giving residents the opportunity to have their say on an ongoing basis. This makes our councillors more democratically accountable to the people they serve.”

In contrast, Coun Dyer disagreed, adding, “Aligning the council’s elections with other Lincolnshire districts wouldn’t make Lincoln any more or less accountable.”

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