Where Scotland leads England should follow - Local elections should be important

The headline is not just about an English Parliament which I support and would prefer to regional government, but about today's announcement from the Scottish Parliament that Holyrood wants to "decouple" national and local elections.

The last three general elections have been held on the same day as County elections in England which has resulted in local election results having far more to do with national issues rather than local ones. In Norfolk, people should be voting for Norfolk County Council based on what they have done and achieved, or because they are voting personally for a particular candidate. However many councillors, of all parties, have lost seats in recent years on national swings based on people voting in the General Election and largely being unwilling or unable to comprehend that they could alter their vote in the local elections.

Whilst having a local election on the same day as a general election might appear to boost turnout, actually it diminishes the value of local elections, making them a sideshow and less important in people's minds. If we really value democracy it should be heralded, made special, made important. In England County elections have been devalued since 1991 and this has made them seem like a waste of time.


Bernard Salmon said...

I'd actually go further than that and question whether we need to have all local elections on the same day. The German Lander decide for themselves when their elections are and I see no reason why local government in this country should not do the same. Even if there isn't a general election at the same time, having all local elections on the same day encourages people to make their decisions on national issues rather than local ones. While it might be more convenient for political parties to have just one election day, and I also suspect that not many local authorities would bother to change from May, there's no reason why councils shouldn't be allowed to do so if they wish.

ThunderDragon said...

I like the idea. But one reason why not is the cost of it. At a general election, they already have to pay everything, so why do so twice when it is completely unnecessary?

Edis said...

Interesting idea, making (fixed term) council election dates at a time locally decided.

It would need a bit more than just an adjustment of poll dates though. Currently new councillors are voted in just before the Council Annual Meeting with all the budgeting and financial oversight and committee allocation implications of that. If we varied the dates would we have to allow variations in the council Offical Year as well?

On a small matter if we do have the same local election date I wish it was on the second Thursday of May not the first. That would clear campaigning time away from the clutter of April and May Bank Holidays.

Personally I am against rigidly fixed term parliaments. I think there should be a limited number (say 5) days a year when a Parliamentary poll may be held, none of them to co-incide with local elections. Parliaments normally to last a full term unless certain very specific events happen (ie not on the whim of the Prime Minister).