Letter to Editor: “Devious tactics” by Harlow Council’s Tories over local elections consultation

Elections / Mon 31st Jul 2023 at 08:50am

Dear Editor,

IT is shocking, but perhaps unsurprising, to see devious tactics employed by Harlow Council’s Conservative administration as they seek to influence the outcome of the public consultation on changing the Harlow voting system.

If you first look on the Council’s website there in a very balanced approach, it takes readers through both the pro’s and con’s of changing the system before taking them to a page where they can register their views. https://www.harlow.gov.uk/your-council/have-your-say/consultations

It says,
Why keep elections by thirds?

More frequent opportunities to make your views known with more immediate political accountability.
Greater continuity of councillors as they can’t all be replaced in a single election.
Gradual change that retains knowledge and experience whilst allowing for new councillors with new ideas.

Voting for one councillor at an election is simpler and understood by voters.
Why change to whole council elections?
Four year mandates and less focus on yearly campaigning.
Lower cost as elections won’t take place every year.
Allows for a complete change in councillors once every 4 years and we can have single or multi-member wards.
Fewer elections may reduce election fatigue which may increase turnout.

So far so good!

But then Harlow Council put out a press release to Your Harlow on 27th July in which only the argument for changing to voting every four years is given, and where readers are directed by link to a Council web page to register their views without having seen the argument for remaining with the present system.

This is contrary to the government guidance given in THE CODE OF RECOMMENDED PRACTICE ON LOCAL AUTHORITY PUBLICITY which states that Council publicity must be both “objective and even handed”.

Who agreed to the content of this press release and thought that this was acceptable practice?

The 27th July press release makes a mockery of the notion of impartiality and is arguably little else than a devious attempt by the Harlow Conservatives to inappropriately use Council resources to influence the outcome of a public consultation process.

One can only hope, for the sake of informed democracy, that the Council will now correct its mistake and in future only publish “objective and even handed” articles and press releases on this matter.

Incidentally, the following local Councils and others use the “elections by thirds approach” Basildon, Brentwood, Broxbourne, Cambridge, Castle Point, Colchester, Epping Forest, St Albans, Stevenage, Watford, Welwyn and Hatfield. You can find more information on this government website which lists all the district councils and their method of voting.


Tony Edwards

Councillor for Toddbrook (Labour)

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8 Comments for Letter to Editor: “Devious tactics” by Harlow Council’s Tories over local elections consultation:

2023-07-31 20:10:12

This is what happens when you have a BOY in charge and over rated , overstayers on the council. Fingers in so many pies and open to persuasion from dodgy businesses.

Toby Le Rone
2023-07-31 21:13:08

In view of historical low turn outs of local elections, makes perfect sense. Very few people in reality care about them. Could be argued they are a waste of time, money & resources. Spend the money on FOC Parties in Park at the under used bandstand. Get a far bigger turnout

2023-07-31 22:04:43

Turn out is low as no matter what we do life gets harder and less free thanks to the political parties. None of them care, all are playing politics.

David Forman
2023-08-01 23:10:03

It is interesting to note that the link councillor Tony Edwards provides at the end of his letter shows the majority of councils elect every 4 years.

James Leppard
2023-08-02 12:21:24

I fail to grasp the lack consistency in Cllr Edwards stance. Last September proposed cancelling the May local elections on the basis of cost and the fact that the 11 members elected would serve for only one year. These are precisely some of the reasons why the consultation regarding a change to all-out elections every 4 years (as undertaken by the majority of councils) is being made. Harlow Labour - like their leader Starmer - are having a U turn proposing a continuation of the same system that they opposed in September!

Tony Edwards
2023-08-02 14:11:47

James - simply repeating your point - doesn't change the argument - particularly when you are not comparing like with like - As you know. The Councillors elected in 2023 will only serve one year instead of four. This, as you know, is due to the redrawing of the ward boundaries by the Local Government Boundary Commission. Given that they would only be serving one year, as there was going to have to be an all out election in 2024 - it was perfectly reasonable to make the case for cancelling the 2023 election. Anyway I have had my say and you have had yours - if residents go to the Council website they can see reasons for both sides of the argument and then express an opinion - here is the link https://www.harlow.gov.uk/your-council/have-your-say/consultations

2023-08-07 21:39:37

It would be far better to have elections for all Councillors more frequently because some seem to get elected promising one thing and then doing a 180 or doing nothing very soon after getting elected. Take for example the Councillor who was elected promising to lay down in front of the bullozers ..

2023-08-21 03:04:14

Nostradamus, which other national politician promised to do this along with making videos beginning "hi folks...", doing photo ops at any opportunity, talking about having "the best in the world". It appears we have a Boris Johnson tribute act leading our council. Maybe he should get a job first and live in the real world and not a snow globe of Tory internships for local MPs. The very thought of a 4 year cycle fills me with dread. The final year will be filled with endless electioneering and political point scoring. Look at the USA where constant flips in government approach mean nothing is achieved. This is before we talk about the boundary changes which are nothing more than gerrymandering. How does Church Langley (I thought it was a village?!) have anything to do with Potter Street? All it does is shift a huge number of Conservative voters into the ward.

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