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OPINION: Fewer councillors, PR and local recall – 3 reforms needed

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A few days ago, CambsNews https://www.cambsnews.co.uk/ kindly shared a few of my thoughts about recall.

For those that don’t know, recall is the  process by which a local petition is opened by the authorities to decide whether an elected person can be ousted from office at the wish of their electorate if the individual has misbehaved.

It is my view that the recall process should be widened and used more often.  Not at a whim, but if there has been an independent investigation into their conduct if they have been found wanting.

That idea is one such thought that I have been expressing on my new blog, Change from the Centre (Changefromthecentre.org).

https://www.changefromthecentre.org/

Which is aimed at highlighting the desperate need for better politics in the UK, but also that the change needs to be driven from the centre ground of our politics rather than being forced from the edges based on a desire to force a controversial agenda.

At the heart of this are the need for two things, the first is a restructuring of our political organisations from the top, to bottom, reducing the number of layers and reorganising how we raise taxes so that those councils who are closer to the grass roots have the money and authority to make real investment decisions to enable local growth.

One principle of this would be to reduce the number of councillors, but to also make their role more professional, this as a way of trying to encourage younger people into politics.

To do this council structures will need to be simplified.

The second part of the change is to move our elections away from first past the post and towards Proportional Representation.   We live in one of the most unpopular democracies in the western world; Cambridge University’s Global Satisfaction with Democracy Report from 2020 highlighted that only Spain and Greece in Western Europe had less satisfactory democracies.

Events since then can only have made things worse and, more importantly, I believe that the worst of them would not have happened under PR.

It is true that PR would mean more coalition Governments (and an increase in the number of political parties meaning that we would be able to vote for people whose beliefs are much closer to our own.

A coalition partner would have held the Government to account both over the misbehaviour of Boris Johnson, who would have had to resign much earlier, and a coalition partner would never have allowed the disastrous Liz Truss budget to go ahead.

The more I have looked at PR, the more I realise that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages – although no democracy is perfect – but the other thing I have realised is that PR and the political renewal that has to accompany it will only happen through people making it happen.

We know the Conservatives won’t support it, but also that Keir Starmer is avoiding anything controversial on what he hopes is his path to becoming the next Prime Minister.

The only way it can happen is if we make it happen – make it our priority and make it part of the mainstream political debate.

What I hope Change from the Centre can be come is a vehicle to get people talking and thinking about PR as part of political change, but also something that can play a part in making the debate around it the high priority that it needs to be.

If you agree with me, I would ask you to do two things – firstly share the link to Change from the Centre and secondly, sign up to be kept informed and updated.  The more people know about the website and its intentions, the better.

I leave you with this thought.

46% of voters support Proportional Representation in the UK.

That is more people than support any single political party; isn’t that more than enough reason for PR to be part of the mainstream political debate in the UK.

FACTFILE

Martin Curtis is a former Conservative Fenland District and Cambridgeshire County councillor. He was leader of Cambridgeshire County Council from 2013/14.

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