Agenda item

Whole Council Elections

To consider the contents and proposals set out in the attached report.


Jane Clark, Head of Policy and Governance introduced the report as set out in the Agenda.


Registered Speakers: Councillor Dr Hall.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       An earlier report by Mike McGeary (2011) would be circulated to Members after the meeting.

-       Appendix B provided details of the relative merits of each system, but if Members decided further information would be helpful to residents, this could be done.  But to note, the consultation was due to be published on Monday 26 July 2021.

-       It was suggested whole elections would be good for the stability of the Council and better provided for medium and long term financial planning.

-       It was further suggested that whole elections would make more sense to the electorate and that it would provide significant financial savings.

-       Central Government and two thirds of other Councils operated a whole election system, including Kent County Council.

-       The consultation sought to harvest views of the electorate that would better inform a decision by Members.

-       There was very little research on whole elections and as such the report did not show any clear evidence of any significant benefit. 

-       Residents would vote on the issues of the day and this would be true whether the Council adopted whole elections or elections by thirds.

-       There was a risk that if local elections took place at the same time as national elections, local elections would lose out.

-       There was a risk that whole elections would result in the loss of democratic engagement.

-       There was a further risk that all political parties (and not just smaller parties) may not be able to field candidates if there was a move to whole elections.   This could leave some seats uncontested.

-       Any change in system would require a two thirds majority.

-       The cost of the consultation would not be significant. It would feature on the TWBC website and in the four main local newspapers. 

-       Neither system would guarantee a stable Council.

-       A mixture of experience on the Council was very important.

-       One advantage of elections every 4 years (whole elections) was that it would give more time to find the talent.  Better candidates might improve voter turnout.

-       A recent article in the Times of Tunbridge Wells did not come from a press release issued by the Council or from the Cabinet.  It was likely that it was ‘picked up’ following the publication of the Agenda for this meeting and not from any official source. Once the consultation had been published, it was expected that TWBC would issue a press statement.

-       There was concern that the questions included in the consultation were not sufficiently prescriptive to give the electorate enough information to make an informed decision.

-       The two proposed consultations included in the Agenda would be published as one consultation for a period of 6 weeks.  The information would be amalgamated and would total 4 questions.

-       The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) don’t consult on Council size.  The reason TWBC were suggesting a consultation was to gather evidence on this issue. 

-       The LGBCE were likely to run a consultation in early 2022 on the size, shape and names of Wards.

-       There was no formal way to weight consultation responses so it would be for Members to make a judgement on what weighting to put on each response.

-       In terms of numbers of Councillors, this was determined by ratio of Councillors to electorate.  To increase the number of Councillors (more than 48) there would need to be a strong case as to why there was a need to go outside of the range as determined by the Boundary Commission.  It was unlikely the Boundary Commission would agree to a higher number of Councillors.

-       However, if Councillors wanted to include a higher number as part of the Consultation process this could be done.

-       It should be noted that Tonbridge and Malling had agreed to reduce their number of Councillors by 11.   

-       It was recognised that it was unlikely there would be a high level of response to the consultation.  The consultation would help to inform  views, but it was not the only piece of evidence for Members.

-       Consultation was a legal requirement and must include key stakeholders, including Parish and Town Councils.  Given this, there was no reason not to also include members of the public.

-       Engagement with the electorate was important and to ensure the decisions as a result of the consultation were fully understood. 

-       Elections by thirds allowed feedback on decisions 3 out of 4 years and could potentially avoid big mistakes and/or commitments being made.

-       It was important that Members helped educate the electorate so they knew what they were voting for.

-       The reasons for the answers the electorate gave would be important.  It would be further important that the right questions were asked.

-       It was suggested it should be made clear the research referred to in the preamble was quite old and based on national rather than local elections. 

-       There was a discussion on the use of ‘yes’ and ‘no answers in the consultation.  It was suggested that this form of questioning was outdated.  The answers should instead be in the form of statements.

-       Ultimately it would be for Councillors to make a decision on this issue. Consultations were only part of the decision making process.

-       The Borough already benefited from over 200 representatives – Parish, Town, Borough and County.

-       The preamble could be amended to reflect the research in 2003 and include a hyperlink to that research.

-       The wording of Question 1 could be changed to not include a ‘yes’ ‘no’ answer.

-       The General Purposes Committee was a regulatory committee so the decision rested with this committee rather than with Cabinet.  If a decision could not be made, it would be referred straight to Full Council.

-       An amendment to Question 1 was proposed by Cllr Wormington, seconded by Cllr Pope and a vote was requested.  The wording to be amended as follows:


“Which electoral system do you think the Council should have?

-       All Out (where Councillors are elected once every four years)

-       By thirds (where a third of Councillors are elected three years out of four)”


-       A vote was taken:

o   6 for

o   1 against

o   1 abstain


-       The amendment was passed. 


RESOLVED – The recommendations set out in the report were supported to include the amendment to Question 1. 





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