In November 2016, Ex-Leader, Ranjit Banwait, tried to secure a vote to change the Council’s electoral Cycle to “whole council elections”. It failed, not because it was a bad idea…but because it was a proxy vote of no confidence in Banwait and his administration. 3 years later, Cllr Baggy Shanker (Labour) proposed a similar motion at Full Council to run a consultation on this same subject.
Council resolves to run a public consultation from January to March 2020 to engage with stakeholders across the city on the issue of moving from the current electoral cycle to whole council elections from 2022.
Council further resolves to convene a special Full Council meeting in June 2020 to consider and vote on whether to move to whole council elections from 2022.
How will the electoral cycle change?
There are 17 wards in Derby, with 3 Cllrs per ward ( 51 in total). Each Cllr is in office for 4 years. Each year, 1 Cllr from each ward stands for re-election, as their 4 year term ends. There are no elections in the 4th year of the cycle. This is “election by thirds”
The “whole Council elections” (aka “All Outs”/ 4 yearly) is the model that is used in the General Election. One election every 4 years when all 51 seats become available.
To secure a change to the process, two-thirds of Cllrs must vote in favour of it which means that no one party ( based on current seat splits) can make the change.
Derbyshire County Council, the district and borough Councils surrounding Derby….and the majority of Councils in England operate to “whole Council elections”
What are the advantages / disadvantages?
The main advantage of “election by thirds” is that it gives the public a regular opportunity to “have a say”. Although it is unlikely to radically change the make up of the Council, it can change the leadership – as in May 2018. It should keep the leadership more “on their toes”.
The disadvantages are that there is no stability for Council staff and businesses. Cllrs in a semi-permanent election mode can be ineffective.
“Election by thirds” means that parties can “re-cycle” a cohort of ~17 people to contest elections each year. With whole Council elections, they would need to have 51 people to stand if they wanted to contest each seat – this could present parctical problems.
What were the results of the consultation?
86% of the respondents, including groups representing the City’s business population (Derby Renaissance Board and Marketing Derby) supported the change to whole Council elections.
Did the June 2020 Special Meeting take place?
Although the results had been analysed in time, the Special meeting didn’t take place in June. It is understood that the plan was to have the Special Meeting at the July Full Council meeting – however it wasn’t on the final agenda.
During the July Council meeting, Cllr Shanker asked a question of Cllr Barker:
” Can you tell me please why that ( Special Meeting in June) hasn’t happened and can you confirm whether this is because of the divisions within your own group on this subject?”
Cllr Barker responded by pointing out that the Council had been focussing on the Covid pandemic
“…and we are also mindful, that the Government is due to publish a White Paper on devolution in the Autumn which may have implications on this area in relation to 4 year cycle it is therefore not appropriate to bring the response at the current time but it will be brought forward in due course”
As of 14th September, the Government has not yet published the White Paper ( on local government structure, not electoral cycles), however the Special meeting will now take place on the 23rd September.
Why the change of heart by the Tory administration?
“I’m disappointed that I have had to force the hand of the Conservative Administration and have faced obstacle after obstacle to even get this on the agenda despite the whole Council agreeing to this process in November 19. I just hope they stop the gerrymandering and now back the public and business community and agree to whole Council Elections or come clean and demonstrate that they are anything but “open and transparent” proving they have never been in favour of whole council elections.”
Are the other parties in favour of the change?
Cllr Shanker has previously stated that the Labour group “have consistently called for whole Council elections when in power and in opposition”, however the smaller parties are more cautious.
Cllr Graves (Reform Derby) responded to questions on his position:
“We are a Council, not the national government and Derby has a long history of voting In thirds, unlike those councils you mention. Derby should make its own mind up as there are too many decisions forced upon us by government and the EU for that matter. I would be more comfortable having a 4 year cycle if we had a fairer election system such as the EU use (proportional representation). First past the post does not properly represent people’s voting, and some people vote differently to stop one party or another getting in. Labour and Conservatives do not want this because they would never have an outright majority.
Derby is still sore from the horrendous leadership of Ranjit Banwait. Whilst not as bad, the current Conservatives have shown their real colours when they not only campaigned on changing to a Committee System but also signed a written agreement they would do this and promptly voted against.
Such behaviour makes parties like mine Very nervous.
In terms of consultation, you may recall I have for the last 20 years explained that consultation exercises are about the council (in this case) telling you what it wants to do. Furthermore the numbers consulted are relatively low and geared towards council partners. Civil servants are not the most reliable consultees to represent the average person in the community. A real consultation would probably show a different result. Council always gear evidence towards the result they want otherwise they wouldn’t use that method.”
Cllr Ruth Skelton (Lib Dems) gave her response:
“It’s not that there is anything unique about Derby. The issue is that we have (across the country) a system of local governance – Cabinet – that puts far too much power is a few pairs of hands. As we have seen in Derby (and are seeing now) this amount of power goes to people’s heads. Arrogance creeps in. It’s rather like in Lord of the Rings when the ring starts to have an effect on the possessor – the negative side of their character comes to the fore. We see this happening with annual elections – it is even worse if these people know there will be no accountability until 4 years has gone by.
Now if we had PR for local elections and a committee system, most councils would be in No Overall Control. Parties have to work together for the benefit of their area. The political culture would be quite different to the rather toxic one that we get under FPTP and the cabinet system and its very restricted form of scrutiny.”
It is unlikely that this change will happen.
If the Tories had been keen on this proposal they would have brought it to the June/July Council meeting. A late withdrawl from the July meeting indicates their position. Interestingly, the Council agenda is issued by the Monitoring Officer ( non-political role), and not by the Tory Leader of the Council. The agenda should be based on the need for decisions to be made by the Council, and not be subjected to political influence.
Whilst whole Council elections have positive merit, it is clear, that the smaller parties have lost some trust in this Tory administration. The leadership reneging on their commitment to implement the Committee system is still very raw in their minds.
I’m sure the debate on the 23rd September will be interesting..
Categories: Derby City Council