Council by-elections to be abolished?

The Councillors Commission, chaired by the former Labour leader of Camden Council (Jane Roberts), is due to report to the Government on Monday and leaks to the media suggest some highly controversial proposals will be included.

The media coverage has led on proposals to significantly increase the money paid to councillors.

But in the leaks are two other hot potatoes: the suggestion that council by-elections should be axed (and instead any vacancies filled from a list of names) and the suggestion that term-limits should be introduced for local government elections.

The Commission was set up following the Government’s local government White Paper, which said there would be:

An independent review of the incentives and barriers to serving on councils. Councillors should be supported in their contributions and service to their communities, not face disincentives to taking on the role. The review will look at a range of issues, including the extent to which finding it difficult to get time off work discourages people from becoming councillors or serving in cabinets, the time commitments expected of councillors and cabinet members and allowances.

You can see the list of its members on the Councillors Commission website; they included three Labour politicians, one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat (Cathy Bakewell) alongside some independent members.

UPDATE: The Observer’s coverage includes other proposals from the report: encouraging people to vote by giving voters free entry into a lottery, lowering the voting age to 16 and “Encouraging participation with ‘political speed-dating'”.

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  • If I remember correctly from last conference where there was a fringe on this, most of the independent members were ex-Labour people.
    So it could be a bit of a stick-up.
    Personally I think term limits (say 20 years) would be welcomed to encorage parties to find new candidates rather than just going for the same old faces each time. They should apply to principal councils but not parish/community councils.
    Term limits are also being concidered for Lords reform.

  • Hywel Morgan 9th Dec '07 - 1:03pm

    It’s not mentioned on her biog but I’m pretty certain Cathy Bakewell has fairly lengthy experience on district Councils in Somerset as well.

    I’ll be ultra-generous and give them the benefit of the doubt until I’ve seen all the proposals though some of the headline grabbing ones above are clearly a bit barking 🙂

  • Tony Greaves 9th Dec '07 - 1:42pm

    I have a copy of a very late draft and I have to say that a large number of proposals in this report are garbage.

    As for appointments from a list, they have already introduced the idea of some appointed councillors for Parish Councils (in the recent Local Government Act) so it’s just an extension of that really. The new New Labour establishment really do not believe in local democracy, full stop.

    I hope we will be going very strongly on the attack against the whole report which is at least 50% dangerous, wrong, rubbish.

  • The idea that vacancies be filled by a member of the same party is common place here. In the Assembly there is an official list of substitutes, but in local government, vacancies care often filled by the Party who held the seat proposing someone for co-potion, and if that person is not opposed then they take the vacancy. Makes sense in an STV system, and its not too often that co-options are opposed, as each party knows they could be the ones to need the co- option next time.


  • Hywel Morgan 10th Dec '07 - 10:48am

    Pam – is that partly a specifically Northern Ireland solution to deal with the problems of minority views being represented in an AV by-election for an STV seat.

    Scotland has gone to STV with by-elections.

  • Over at the GLA, when an assembly member elected from the top-up list resigns, the vacancy is filled by the next person on the list. It happened to the LibDems when Louise Bloom resigned. Is that so very wrong?

    I assume that a resignation of a constituncy elected member would trigger a by-election.

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