Electoral change campaigners accused of wasting council’s time

Electoral change campaigners have been accused of wasting a council’s time after pressing a Tory administration which secured an overall majority with just 41 per cent share of the vote to press their party colleagues in Westminster to introduce proportional representation.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive saw both residents and councillors give impassioned responses to a proposal by Liberal Democrat councillor for Harrogate Chris Aldred for it to endorse proportional representation at all elections and write to the government to request the changes.

The meeting heard at the 2019 general election, across the eight constituencies in North Yorkshire and York, Conservatives received 54 per cent of the votes cast, but ended up with seven out of the eight seats.

Campaigners told the meeting how analysis of the county council’s elections since 2005 had revealed that on average UKIP needed 15,500 votes per councillor, the Green Party 6,900, Labour 4,500, Liberal Democrats 3,500 and the Conservatives just 1,900.

The meeting heard claims that many residents believed their votes did not count, resulting in only 35 per cent of those registered to vote taking part in last May’s council elections.

Campaigners called for North Yorkshire to lead the way for “a fairer future” and highlighted the region’s role in movements such as the Suffragettes and action to abolish slavery.

The meeting was told the council’s Conservative administration had been formed despite the party’s candidates only receiving 41.3 per cent of the votes, meaning nearly three in five of those who voted were not represented on the authority’s all-Tory decision-making executive.

After listening to numerous campaigners for 26 minutes and opposition councillors state the reasoning behind the motions for a further ten minutes, the authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said the public would be “horrified” to learn the cost of officer and councillors’ time in considering the proposals.

He said: “This is, let’s be clear about it, political posturing, by opposition members, grandstanding for no purpose in terms of outcome for this authority.

“We should be getting on with things that we have some control over.

“This should not be used again as a platform for self-indulgent and party political promotion.”

Councillor David Chance, executive member for corporate services, said there were pros and cons to any electoral system and while proportional representation could lead to more voices being heard, the electoral system could see more unstable, coalition governments.

He added: “The first-past-the-post system of voting has the advantage of providing a clear winner in every seat contested. It builds a strong relationship with the locally elected officials and is a well known system of voting that is easy to understand.”

Ahead of the executive agreeing that it would not support the proposal, which will be considered by the full council in May, Councillor Chance said electoral reform was an issue that Westminster politicians would decide, but that it was not on the government’s agenda.


  1. Councillor Dadd believes it’s a waste of his time to consider how the democratic operation of the County Council could be improved. The six public speakers would completely disagree with him including one that had come from York by train for his 3-minute statement.

    • How can spending 36 minutes listening to a case for improving democracy be a waste of time?

  2. Not only the members of the public who spoke but also those who’d gone to support them.
    What would in fact horrify voters would be Cllr Dadd’s vitriolic attack on those who’d merely like to see a fairer voting system. Instead of presenting a credible case for perpetuating the current system, which means that the majority of voters aren’t represented, he resorted to making snide remarks with a sneer, and the Chairman, Cllr Les, did not ask him to tone his language down, instead insisting that a slur on Lib Dem councillors must be true because he’d read it in a newspaper and laughing while doing so. It appears that none of the Tory members of NYCC know the meaning of democracy.

  3. Very fair report of most of what was said but it doesn’t mention that the chairman not only made no effort to get Cllr Dadd to tone down his vitriol but added his own sarcasm to the attacks on the Lib Dems.

  4. Why should our local government be run exclusively by a party which only won just over 40% of the vote?
    It’s not as if the government (local & national) is working well. Poverty, malnutrition & fuel poverty are rising. Social care has insufficient staff to meet the needs of those dependent on it.
    A wider consensus is required. It’s not as if First Past The Post has delivered strong & stable government or ensured integrity.

    • In 2011 the population was given the opportunity to vote in a referendum on electoral reform (using the AV = Alternative Vote system), but chose to stay with the First past the post method of voting.

      • Doubtless those who voted to keep FPTP were those who benefit from it, viz Tories. I can’t remember what the turnout was but no doubt many people didn’t bother to vote because they thought it wouldn’t make any difference. People who can’t be bothered (to inform themselves, see through the lies, vote) are to blame for a lot of what’s wrong with this country. I despair when seeing people buying the Daily Mail.

      • All that tells us is that people didn’t want AV. Hardly surprising as AV is little different than first past the post, which is precisely why we were offered it. This debate is about having a proportional voting system, so we’d get a parliament or council properly representing how voters actually voted, and giving most voters a local representative whose views they actually agree with. Is that too much to ask for?

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