Memorandum by Mrs S Halstead
I write to express my acute disquiet at the
proposals suggested in the consultation draft of the Local Government
(Organisations and Standards) Bill that consideration be given
to introducing PR for local elections.
I am an Independent councillor of 12 years standing.
At each of four elections I have fought in East Hampshire I have
received more votes than any other candidate. In part this can
be explained by the large size of my ward, but it is always clear
on the doorstep that particularly at local elections residents
would prefer to see less politics and like to vote for individuals
known to them who they have confidence in personally. This fact
is also underlined when effective political candidates attract
votes from across the party divides because people choose the
individual rather than the party.
Today is the day after the European elections
which have been conducted under a PR system. I have waited until
today to write, thinking that the experience of operating PR could
persuade me that it has advantages. On the contrary I am more
convinced than ever that such a system would be a complete disaster
for local elections and from a personal point of view would be
the death knell for independent candidates in sparsely populated
The European ballot system recognised that independent
candidates could not form themselves into a list and their names
were given. However, presumably due to the huge size of the constituencies
and the costs involved no publicity was received from either of
te two named on my ballot paper. No responsible voter could give
unknowns their vote so it would appear to have been a complete
waste of time these individuals putting their names forward.
As I understand it PR for local elections would
necessitate introducing much larger wards in order to be workable.
In rural areas this means very large geographical areas which
individuals without a party machine, as demonstrated by the European
experience, would find impossible to canvass. The outcome would
be to deny the public representation by individuals known to them
and in whom they can have personal confidence.
The low turn out at the European elections may
be partly attributal to the remoteness of the list system and
the over-large constituencies. I urge you to discount it as a
way forward for local elections.