Assembly rejects poll changes

By Duncan Higgitt
Published July 17th 2003 in The Western Mail

THE Welsh Assembly Government yesterday rejected calls for a proportional representation system to be introduced for council elections.

An independent commission set up by the former Assembly government called for the introduction of the single transferable vote system for local government polls.

But Finance Minister Sue Essex yesterday announced she would not be adopting the recommendation.

"Local elections will be held next year using the same electoral system as in the past," she said.

"Although the issue of implementing proportional representation is one of the recommendations of the report of the commission of local government arrangements in Wales, it is not one that I intend to pursue."

Mrs Essex said change would create far larger wards and weaken the link between councillors and voters.

The announcement was met with disappointment by the Liberal Democrats. They forced Labour to set up the commission as part of their deal to go into coalition.

Lib Dem economic development spokeswoman Jenny Randerson said the current first-past-the-post system was not healthy for democracy.

"Low turnout is a problem at local elections as well as Assembly elections. There is evidence turnout is lower where the electorate perceive one party to have a safe majority under the current system," she said.