Draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - First Report


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 rural areas.

  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.

June 1999


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