Swindon Borough Council election cycle consultation

We are running this public consultation, on a potential change to our election cycle, from 14 August 2023 to 25 September 2023. 

Borough elections in Swindon are currently undertaken ‘by thirds’. This means that all councillors are elected for a term of four years, with one third being elected for three consecutive years followed by a fourth year when there are no elections. 

We currently have 57 councillors representing 20 wards.

Almost all wards have three councillors representing them, apart from Chiseldon and Lawn who have two councillors and Ridgeway who has one councillor. 

Each councillor currently represents approximately 2,800 people and is elected for a four-year term. 

We are consulting on whether we should retain the current election cycle, or whether we should change to a ‘whole council’ elections model, also known as ‘all out elections’. Under this system, all seats would be elected at the same time, once every four years. 

What are the benefits of the two models?

Benefits of election by thirds

  • This provides regular opportunities for the public to vote and decide on how the council should be run
  • One councillor is elected for each ward at a time, allowing the electorate to focus on the aptitude of particular candidates
  • The current system would retain a large proportion of existing councillors with their knowledge and experience

Benefits of whole council elections

  • It would deliver a clear mandate from the electorate every four years
  • It would give a controlling political party group time to set a clear four-year vision, enabling longer term strategic decision making and accountability
  • Holding whole council elections once every four years would result in around £300,000 savings per four-year election cycle

What election cycle do other local authorities use? 

Across England, the following election cycles apply:

  • 191 authorities currently elect all local councillors every four years
  • 110 authorities elect one third of the local councillors every year for three years and hold no elections in the fourth year
  • 7 authorities elect half of local councillors every two years. We are not considering moving to this latter option for election cycles. 

Why are we doing this now? 

This consultation links to a review of electoral boundaries taking place in Swindon in 2023 and 2024, led by the independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).

An electoral review is an examination of a council’s electoral arrangements focussed upon the total number of councillors elected to the council, the number of wards and their boundaries, the number of councillors for each ward and the name of each ward.

The LGBCE is reviewing Swindon’s wards because of electoral inequality in two wards: St Andrews ward, which has too many electors, and Wroughton & Wichelstowe ward, which has too few.

At the start of a review, before they start looking at a warding pattern, the LGBCE need to know what our voting pattern will be when the new wards come into force.

At a meeting of full Council in July 2023, councillors voted to run a public consultation seeking views on whether or not to change the current electoral cycle. 

How is the consultation being run?

Residents and organisations can give their views through this online survey.

The survey is open until 5.00pm on 25 September 2023

You will be asked to indicate whether we should retain the current election cycle or if we should change to a whole council elections model.

Paper versions of the consultation survey are available for residents at the following council-run local libraries: 

  • Central library
  • Highworth library
  • North Swindon library
  • Park library
  • West Swindon library 

If you are unable to take part in the online survey or access the paper surveys at these libraries, or require the information in an alternative format, call 01793 445500 

When will a final decision be made?

Councillors will consider the feedback received at an Extraordinary Council Meeting later this year. Two thirds of the councillors present at that meeting would have to vote in favour of a change to make it happen.

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