ALL 49 Thurrock councillors are to be asked to consider consulting local people on changing the way the council is elected.
Members of the cross-party Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting earlier this month were asked to look at the borough’s electoral arrangements and boundaries.
A report to the committee (2 February) explained Thurrock did not meet the “trigger” for automatic boundary changes, such as a major imbalance between ward populations, but also set out the process needed to switch from election by thirds – as at present – and all-out four-yearly elections.
It went on to say that if the council wanted to move to whole-council elections it has to “take reasonable steps to consult with such persons as it thinks appropriate on the proposed change”; have a special meeting and pass a resolution to change the electoral cycle by a two-thirds majority and before 31 December to allow all-out elections the following May; publish an explanatory document on the decision and make this available for public inspection; and give notice to the Electoral Commission that it has passed the resolution.
Committee chair, Cllr Shane Hebb – who had asked for the item to be in the agenda – said afterwards: “We had a very interesting debate with some members preferring the status quo and others in favour of change. It was agreed that we need to explore the idea further at any rate.”
Members suggested election by thirds kept “councillors on their toes”, voting for one person at a time was less confusing and increased accountability, led to stability with no sudden changes, and that there would still be a lot of elections if the change went ahead.
On the other hand, a four-yearly cycle would save around Â£190,000 over four years, lead to stability with the administration able to “deliver on its manifesto”; and take difficult decisions and be held to account or rewarded for them at the ballot box.
Cllr Hebb said: “We agreed council should be asked to consider whether or not we should carry out a wider consultation on this.
“It is critical our stakeholders and our communities have a large say on any change of the current electoral system, and that will be the principle recommendation to council.”