Whole council elections in 2013?

Bristol City Council is consulting on how often we should vote for our councillors.  Bristol voters’  views are being sought on whether we should change to whole council elections every four years starting in May 2013, or retain the existing system of elections by thirds.  The change would see the whole council elected at the same time.  This page gives background information and the arguments for both electoral cycles to help you give an informed view on the issue.

The consultation closes on 30 November 2012.

Our council

Bristol City Council has 70 Councillors representing 35 wards (small parts of the city which together cover the whole of Bristol).  Each ward is represented by two councillors, and each councillor is elected for a four-year term of office.

Current cycle – elections by thirds

Currently the Council holds ‘elections by thirds’ which means that elections are held for 23 or 24 seats each year for three successive years out of four.  As each ward has 2 councillors, voters go the polls twice over a 4 year period to elect one of the councillors for their ward.

Whole council elections

The Council has the power to change its electoral arrangements to ‘whole council elections’ which would mean that all seats on the Council would be elected at the same time, once every four years.

Timing of any change

If approved, the earliest date to hold whole council elections would be May 2013 with the following election in May 2017. However, Bristol decided in May 2012 to have a directly elected mayor on a 4 year term. The election for this mayor will take place in November 2012, however, it would not be possible to hold whole council elections then.  If councillors decide on whole council elections from May 2013 it would not provide the opportunity to synchronise the election with elected mayor elections (Nov 2012 and then May 2016)

Councillors could decide to start whole council elections in May 2016 – this is the date when Bristol will vote again to elect a mayor. This would then synchronise mayoral and council elections and achieve maximum cost savings for holding elections in the long term. It would, however, mean continuing with electing by thirds for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Full council meeting – outcome of the consultation

A meeting of the Full Council on 15th January 2013 will consider the issue further.  The meeting will be webcast live at www.bristol.gov.uk/webcast

Reasons to keep elections by thirds

  • Elections by thirdsElections in three years out of every four provide more frequent opportunities for electors to vote and to influence the political make up of the Council.  This may therefore provide more immediate political accountability and provide a more up-to-date reflection of the views of local people.
  • Electing by thirds means that there is more continuity of councillors, without any chance of them all being replaced in a single election.
  • Voting for one councillor at a time under ‘elections by thirds’ is well understood by voters.  Voting for two councillors at the same time under ‘whole council elections’ could cause confusion.
  • An election by thirds provides a regular influx of newly elected councillors who can bring new ideas and fresh approaches to the Council.
  • Elections by thirds is the system that electors in the city are used to and the withdrawal of the opportunity to vote more frequently may disengage some of the city’s electors if they only vote once every four years, as opposed to the two elections they vote in under elections by thirds.

Reasons to change to whole council elections

  • Whole council elections A clear mandate from the electorate once every four years could enable the Council to adopt a more strategic, long-term approach to policy and decision making – and focus less on yearly election campaigning.
  • The results from whole council elections are simpler and more easily understood by the electorate. This may increase turnout at local elections.
  • Whole council elections would be more compatible with Bristol’s recent decision to adopt a directly elected mayor for the city, as mayors are also elected on a four yearly cycle.  (The elections would not be at the same time though if all-out elections started in May 2013)
  • There would be a clearer opportunity for the electorate to change the political composition of the council once every four years.
  • Holding whole council elections once every four years, rather than smaller elections every three years out of four, would cost less and be less disruptive for public buildings used as polling stations (eg. schools).

How often do other big cities in England elect their councillors?

See how Bristol compares with the core cities – England’s largest cities – in how often we elect

Now give your views online

Complete the online survey

21 thoughts on “Whole council elections in 2013?

  1. Voting in segments as is at the present does not represent the view of the whole population of Bristol. Elections every four years for the whole City is the correct way forward to make our city a better place in the future

  2. Pingback: Should Our Councillors Be Elected All In One Go? - The Bristol Democracy Project

  3. Surely, we must recognise that the characteristics required of a Bristol Council whose purpose is to ‘moderate’ an independently-elected Bristol Mayor are radically different from the characteristics required of a Bristol Council whose purpose is to ‘manage Bristol within itself’. We must therefore consider radical changes to the processes by which we elect the Bristol Council to fit it for its new purpose.

    One can discuss the merits of a ‘solution’ only in the context of a ‘problem’. If the ‘problem’ is the democratic governance of Bristol, we must balance the requirement for an effective Executive with the requirement for democratic moderation of that Executive.

    A regime can have only a single Executive, managed by a single Chief Executive with the authority to appoint and manage his Executive team. Thus, the concept of proportional representation is not relevant to the appointment process for a Chief Executive and his Executive team.

    However, the concept of democracy requires that the Executive should have to maintain the support of a majority of the electorate. Unless the electorate is prepared to subject itself to an overwhelming sequence of campaigns, elections and referenda, the electorate needs a representative Assembly to moderate the Executive on behalf of that electorate. Advocates of proportional representation argue that democratic moderation of an Executive requires that power in that Assembly be based on the concept of proportional representation.

    Most opponents of proportional representation are not anti-democratic per-se. They just believe that the effectiveness of the Executive is more important than the last ounce of proportional democracy, and they have concerns about the presumed weakness of the ‘coalition’ Executive which they presume would have to ‘emerge’ from a proportional Assembly without a dominant party. They believe that such an Executive would have to try to negotiate and maintain a standing ‘mongrel’ coalition of parties based on some form of standing ‘mongrel’ manifesto. They believe that each party and individual aspiring to influence would have to seek membership of that standing ‘mongrel’ coalition. They believe that each such party and individual may well be able to maintain the right to argue by convictions and manifesto commitments within that standing ‘mongrel’ coalition, but would have to agree ‘up front’ to then support that standing ‘mongrel’ coalition line irrespective of convictions and manifesto commitments. They believe that the Executive would have to seek the support of the standing ‘mongrel’ coalition for every proposition in the standing ‘mongrel’ manifesto, and would be constantly diverted by the need to maintain the integrity and support of that standing ‘mongrel’ manifesto and standing ‘mongrel’ coalition. They believe that such an Executive would be too weak and diverted to lead and govern effectively. Thus, most opponents of proportional representation do so not because they are anti-democratic per-se, but primarily to ensure that the Executive (normally) has (non-proportional) majority support in the moderating Assembly (usually through FPTP elections for that Assembly). The result is an (effective but un-democratic) ‘elective dictatorship’ most of the time, with occasional periods of ‘coalition chaos’.

    However, if the Chief Executive was independently-elected (as for the US President, the UK London Mayor, and the UK Bristol Mayor), that Chief Executive would have his/her own democratic mandate, and would be able to seek support from a different set of parties (and rebel individuals) for each of his/her own propositions. Each party (and rebel individual) would be able to support or oppose each proposition according to convictions and manifesto commitments. Indeed, the electorate would be entitled to expect them to do so. There would be no need for a standing ‘mongrel’ coalition, a standing ‘mongrel’ manifesto, or a splitting into an ‘in-crowd’ and an ‘out-rabble’. Of course, there would always be some mutual back-scratching, but not to the extent required to support a standing ‘mongrel’ coalition.

    Thus, for Bristol, we should seek to establish an independently-elected Chief Executive (i.e. the Bristol Mayor), held accountable by a truly-proportional Assembly (i.e. the Bristol Council):

    1. The Bristol Mayor should appoint and manage his Executive team. The Bristol Council should moderate that appointment and management process.

    2. The Bristol Mayor should develop and maintain an overall manifesto. The Bristol Council should moderate that overall manifesto.

    3. The Bristol Mayor should put forward specific propositions in line with that moderated overall manifesto. The Bristol Council should moderate those specific propositions.

    4. The Bristol Mayor should execute the moderated propositions. The Bristol Council should audit the execution of those moderated propositions.

    There is a well-established truly-proportional electoral process for such an Assembly; based on a combination of STV (Single Transferable Vote) and AMS (Additional Member System) processes (as used in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the Greater London Assembly). More specifically, for Bristol:

    1. The current 35 wards would be carried forward, but each ward would elect only a single Councillor (rather than the current two Councillors).

    2. The single Councillor per ward would be elected by STV-1 (i.e. a Single Transferable Vote to elect one Councillor per ward).

    3. The remaining 35 Councillors would be elected from party lists to top-up the 35 ward Councillors to achieve truly-proportional representation.

  4. It wouldn’t be fair on the recently elected cllrs to go ahead with this idea from 2013, the only fairest option if you decide to go with all out elections will be to start this process from 2015. The last thing that an elected mayor from Bristol will need is to be faced with a complete change of his/ her team within months of taking office. This goes against everything that Bristol has voted for in a mayor and people want consistency and not more delays in the city leadership for short term point scoring by the childish hangers on.

  5. The enthusiasm for full elections but only very four years seems to be based upon an enthusiasm for ‘getting things done’, and a concern that more frequent elections are untidy and unstable. It ignores the fact that in a democracy stability and progress must be based on the persuading the electorate to take a stable view, which is a useful incentive to putting forward stable proposals. The supposed stability will actually mean giving unrestricted power to the majority at the time to pursue their pet schemes, until the other party come in, when they pursue their pet schemes, and the supposed stability just becomes a series of zigzags, with many things ‘getting done’, but not many sensible things.

    Local voters should be close enough to local affairs to want to vote on them annually. Until the option of changing to half council elections every year is offered the system should be left as it is.

    W. J. Hall

  6. “Voting for two councillors at the same time under ‘whole council elections’ could cause confusion.”

    If the overwhelm (confuse) the electorate is feared, how about considering spread the two councillors out with the whole council election system that one of the ward councillors every 2 year interval is up over the whole council or perhaps radically having dual councillors downgrading to one so there is less councillors or split the dual elected wards (happens to be all of them) in 2!

    Many of things need to be considered including those further afield (EU, General Election and Police Elections) as it already been done (such as EU or a delayed GE) in the past to save costs and escape “Greece style” (voting more than once within a few months)

    2016, the next Bristol Mayoral election term after the first inaugural term of mayor that happens to be shorter than the norm – 3 1/2 years as the first election in November instead of May/June.

    If first inaugural Mayors can have a shorter electoral term then why not state council elections after reform giving the condition anyone voted in between 2013-2016 will have to recontest in 2016.

    General Election 2020 or more simply Bristol Elections in an General Election year as 5 year fixed Parliament.states in 2015, 2020 and later 5 year intervals the Prime Minister has to call an election. The month is likely to be May as the UK always in modern times favoured May however June could not be ruled out (such as Foot and Mouth) but the PM does have leeway of upto 2 months so could decide theorically say June 2020 if he warrants it resulting in an scenario of Election 2020 could see Bristol vote in May and a General Election in June if not all outcomes not considered

    The EU Parliament is a similar addition consideration if it were to occur in the same year of an Election

    In November when also Bristol votes in the first Mayor the region doing another electoral first – the Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner Elections which term should expire at the same time as the mayor.

    • 2020 theoretically could be a very busy year for vote counting…

      (whole) Council Elections, Mayor, Police and Crime Commissioner and General Election penned for May

      Police & Crime Commissioner Election:
      With the exception of London (Police within elected Mayor remit) and Scotland and Northern Ireland (Commissioners stay unelected) whenever there an PCC election the Mayor elections in Liverpool (first mayor May 2012), Bristol (First Mayor Nov 2012) and Salford (First Mayor May 2012) will from 2016 always at the same time as the London Assembly and Mayor.

      All 3 city elected mayors (Liverpool, Salford and Bristol) likely to end up overshadowed by London’s contest but share a common problem that they will need to work with others to actually work and argument for future enlargement needs consideration.

      All 3 need regional klout and control that they need a mayor to influence be that Greater Manchester, West of England/Avon and Liverpool Urban Area

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