Campaigners are calling on the incoming North Yorkshire Council to become the first local authority in England to reject the first-past-the-post electoral system as part of its ambition to become more responsive to and representative of residents across the country’s largest county.
Executive members of the unitary council’s forerunner, North Yorkshire County Council, will next month consider a notice of motion proposed by High Harrogate councillor Chris Aldred to press the government to enable proportional representation to be used for general, local and mayoral elections.
The move comes two months after Richmondshire District Council resolved to lobby the government to “end minority rule” after members highlighted how proportional representation systems were already being used to elect the parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
North Yorkshire-based campaign groups, including Compass, say while the first-past-the-post system originated when land-owning aristocrats dominated parliament and voting was restricted to property-owning men, proportional representation would ensures all votes count, have equal value, and those seats won match votes cast.
They say with MPs and councillors better reflecting their communities, there would be improved decision-making, wider participation and increased levels of ownership of decisions taken.
Electoral campaigners say given the volume of votes which have effectively been ignored at County Hall, the “relatively weak electoral accountability” of the authority has an impact on public procurement, as, without sufficient critical oversight, costs can spiral out of control.
Campaigners admit while there was a crushing defeat for proportional representation at a national referendum in 2011, following canvassing views on doorsteps and in market squares across the county it had become apparent there was a groundswell of opinion backing change in the electoral system.
They said at the last general election while just 41 per cent of the votes in North Yorkshire constituencies were for Conservative candidates, under the first-past-the-post system the Tories secured all seven seats.
Campaigner Georgie Sale said while numerous councils were considering the issue, North Yorkshire’s council should show leadership and embrace a fair and modern voting system.
She said: “People are looking for their politicians to do things that are honest, right and fair and we have got a new unitary council and the opportunity to do something different.
“The bigger the variety of people you have got thinking about a problem, the better the solution you come to. People from different perspectives can bring a fresh set of eyes and new ideas to the table, so it has got to be for the good of us all.
“You could have knocked me down with a feather when it was approved by Richmondshire council and I am optimistic we might get this through at North Yorkshire, but even if we don’t this time, I feel that door is now ready to be pushed.
“In the past Yorkshire has led a lot of political movements, such as to do with factories and working conditions. How proud would we be that it was us that it was Yorkshire making a move to make sure the future is fairer? I would be very proud to be called a Yorkshirewoman after that.”