Chris Terry argues that electoral reformers should concentrate on electing councils by STV. Here’s why:
STV makes particular sense at a local level because most council wards are already multi-member. In most councils what already happens is that wards have three members, one member is elected each year with the ward lying ‘fallow’ for one year every four years. With STV the same constituency boundaries could be used but elections could take place once every four years. Local parties could dedicate more resources to fighting one big election leading to bigger, shinier, clearer local elections, with more accountability. What’s more constituencies are already multi-member, so the argument for single representative FPTP is invalid – this does not exist in most local councils.
Similarly the typical arguments against STV and other electoral systems don’t necessarily apply. A typical argument against proportional representation is that it leads to unstable coalition government, but councils tend to operate by consensus anyway, and in any case many councils across the country are under no overall control.
This makes a lot of sense. Scotland and Northern Ireland already elect councils by STV, this system works well and leads to councils that more closely reflect what the voters voted for. I’m surprised that the Liberal Democrats didn’t make STV for local councils a condition for the coalition agreement — or at least have to have a referendum on it.
And if we get STV at the local level, the voters across with country will get used to it, which may eventually lead to it being adopted for Westminster.