By Richard Wood
The previous Welsh government, an effective coalition between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and an independent, introduced legislation that gives Welsh local councils the opportunity to switch from First Past the Post to the Single Transferable Vote. But time is running out for councils to adopt it before the next set of local elections.
The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, which enables councils to make changes, was a great step forward as it allows the opportunity for significant upgrades to Welsh local democracy.
Of course, it’s disappointing that there wasn’t an automatic switch for all 22 councils, like in Scotland due to the Labour-Lib Dem coalition (2003 – 2007). Instead, individual councils have to make the decision themselves. But we are where we are.
There are real opportunities for change. However, the decks are stacked against reform campaigners. The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 sets a deadline for reform ahead of the next elections. The legislation says the following:
“A resolution to exercise the power has no effect unless it is passed before 15 November of the year that is three years before the year in which the next ordinary election of the council is due to be held.”
With the next local elections due in May 2027, the deadline for reform is 15 November 2024, three years ahead of the elections. That’s now just two years away.
That may seem like a while away, but it’ll be November 2024 before we know it. Electoral reform campaigners in Wales will be very much aware of that.