Change To Local Election Schedule

Amber Valley Borough Council will now be elected once every four years instead of in thirds.

The authority agreed unanimously at a full council meeting (on 13th November) to make the move, which could save hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Derby City Council is now the last authority in Derbyshire which is elected in thirds, with a fallow year in which there is no election.

Council officers argued that moving to one election every four years would improve long-term planning; consistency of policy; and also fairness for the electorate.

As it stands, voters in wards in which there is only one councillor only get to vote once every four years, while other wards – with more than one representative – can vote more frequently.

The approved change would come into force from May 2023, at the end of the current cycle.

It is forecast that moving to four-yearly elections would save the authority £220,000 every four years.

Council leader, Labour’s Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams said at the meeting: “This idea has come before this council before and for whatever reason both sides have said no.
“It is quite right that people support this and I think it is quite right that we need to move forward.”

He said there were residents in new housing estates that were in effect split down the middle, with some voting once every four years while their neighbours vote every year.

Opposition leader, Conservative Cllr Kevin Buttery said: “It is time that we moved on and this has got my full support.”

Cllr Brian Lyttle said: “There are people out there who are very confused and are voting every single year.
“They have been told that we have elections every year and then in the fourth year there is the county council election, but it hasn’t stopped the confusion.
“This is a positive move forward to stop that confusion.”

Green Party Cllr Dave Wells said: “It is difficult as a smaller party to have elections every four years because it makes it harder to add new members and also younger people will have to wait longer before they can vote.
“However, it is only fair that wards with one member who vote once every four years and others that vote every year that we have got to put the common good ahead of selfishness.”

The current election system in Amber Valley costs £360,000 over four years, while the approved move would cost £140,000 over the full four-year cycle.

Council papers on the plans said that the benefit of having elections every three out of fours years means that a council can be “judged on its performance annually”.
As a result “the electorate has the opportunity to react more quickly to local circumstances and council decisions”.

It also provides more frequent opportunities for potential candidates to compete for a seat on the council and 18-year-olds do not have to wait as long before they can vote.

Meanwhile, the documents list the benefits of whole council elections as follows:
The council has a “clear mandate” for four years allowing better long-term planning; it reduces costs; and greater stability with a lower chance of a change in political leadership.

It also says that there is less disruption for schools which are used as polling stations and there is typically a higher level of turnout for whole council elections.

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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