Campaigners claim victory as Senedd backs local new elections bill to ‘revolutionise’ local government

Written by on 18th November 2020

The Welsh Parliament has passed an act which campaigners say could transform local democracy in Wales – legislating for a fairer voting system and paving the way for automatic voter registration.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill which passed its Stage 4 vote tonight is a landmark piece of legislation that would amongst other things address systemic issues with the voting system by giving councils the opportunity to move to single transferable vote (STV) using an opt-in system similar to that used in New Zealand. Scotland already uses the STV system for local elections.

This is the first piece of legislation bringing STV to Wales and represents a significant step forward in delivering fair and proportional elections and would introduce proportional voting to Welsh Local Government elections for the first time. Several councils are already considering introducing PR when the Bill receives Royal Assent.

The Bill also includes the extension of the voting franchise to 16- and 17-year olds and all foreign citizens living legally in Wales meaning a whole new generation of voters will now have a say on the future of their local area.

It leaves England and Northern Ireland as the only two nations in the United Kingdom that systematically denies the right to young people to have their say on critical local issues which affect their day to day lives. 

Jess Blair, Director, ERS Cymru said:

“This legislation could revolutionise democracy in Wales, bringing in a fairer, more proportional voting system, expanding voting to 16-and 17- year olds, and changing the way local elections are run for the better.

“This is the culmination of years of campaigning and discussions and marks a real step forward for Welsh democracy.

“Wales is leading the way on reforming the way local democracy can work to ensure that even at the most local level, our democracy is fair and representative.

“These changes set a blueprint for the rest of the UK and shows just what is possible when there is the will to get it done. Now it is England’s turn to follow.” 

The bill delivers improvements to voter registration that could pave the way to a new system of Automatic Voter Registration as well as changes around diversity, including job sharing for cabinet roles, and a duty on local authorities to publish plans to increase participation.  

There are also provisions in the bill that allows for pilots of innovative new electoral arrangements, such as voting on different days and mobile voting, to be trialled. 

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