Posted: Sat 12th Sep 2020

Welsh voters could elect up to 50% more Senedd Members in 2026 election for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Sep 12th, 2020

Welsh voters could elect up to 50% more Senedd Members if the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru get its way.

It has thrown its weight behind a Committee on Senedd Reform report calling on the number of representatives to be increased to “at least 80 and preferably closer to 90”.

The report said the increase would reflect the greater powers invested in the body since devolution in 1999.

Welsh Conservatives said there was “no public appetite for an increase”.

The report also called for a change in the voting system to the single transferable vote (STV) and boundary reform, in time for the 2026 Senedd poll.

The findings of the committee echo those from a 2017 study by the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform.

Plaid Cymru backed the changes saying the Welsh electoral system needed “urgent reform”.

ERS Cymru director Jess Blair claimed the move was “desperately needed”.

She said: “The truth is the Senedd is operating chronically over-capacity – and it is ordinary voters in Wales who lose out.

“Politicians in all parties recognise the need for reform, but too many are choosing to play politics with the issue, avoiding making the crucial decision that would give the Welsh people the voice they deserve.

“It has been well over 15 years since an increase in the size of the Senedd was first recommended.

“In that time the Senedd has gained more powers while having insufficient capacity to properly scrutinise legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account.

“It is now time for parties to grasp the nettle, and commit to enacting these important and positive reforms in the first part of the next Senedd term.

“Stronger scrutiny pays for itself.”

Paul Davies MS, leader of the Conservative opposition, said the report represented the views of just two parties (Labour and Plaid Cymru) and there was “no public appetite” for the changes.

He added: “The current voting system enables a roughly proportional Senedd while maintaining local accountability with two thirds of Members of the Welsh Parliament elected on a first past the post basis; we see no reason to change it.”

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price MS claimed a “strengthened Senedd” was needed at a time when devolution was “under direct assault from Westminster”.

Mr Price was referring to a row over who gets to set standards normally defined in Brussels, which has broken out between the devolved nations and the UK Government.

Its UK Internal Market Bill seeks to give the UK Government the last word on food standards, air quality and other regulations over Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – who would then have to abide by those rulings.

The devolved nations can decide their own standards but would still have to accept goods and services from other parts of the UK – even if their standards were different.

He added: “Better value for money than any five billion pound refurbishment to Westminster, Plaid Cymru has long maintained that our national parliament needs more powers and that our electoral system needs urgent reform.

“Our Parliament is too small and that represents a big danger to the health of our democracy.

“It’s a crisis in our democracy that we have to put right today.”

Senedd elections currently operate under the Additional Member System which sees 40 constituency members voted for in a first past the post, winner takes all poll.

Voters then make a preference for a political party on their voting slip and members from each region are drawn from a list given by each party.

The bigger the proportion of the vote, the more additional members a party gets.

Under the Single Transferable Vote electors rate their choices in order of preference for a given area, by writing one, two, three, etc next to their choices.

Each candidate must receive a certain quota of the votes to be elected.

If your first choice has enough votes, second preference votes are then counted to top up other candidates, and so on until enough nominees have the required numbers to fill the vacancies.

The system is used in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland for their Parliamentary elections.

By Jez Hemming – BBC Local Democracy Reporter

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