The window of opportunity for kick-starting a renaissance of local government in Exeter came and went yesterday. The ruling Labour group increased its seats on the city council to 30, out of a total of 39. The Tories have 8, and the Lib Dems 1.
There are three points worth making on this.
First, the revision of ward boundaries last year worked to Labour’s advantage. For example, the St Leonard’s ward which previously returned one Tory and one Labour councillor was abolished by splitting it in two with both parts then attached to strongly Labour wards. The result was the loss of the Tory councillor.
Second, disillusion with our local politicians is such that the turnout was only 39%, down from 69% in 2015 when the city council and Parliamentary elections were held on the same day. This means that Labour’s dominance of the council relies on the support of a mere 17% of the electorate.
Third, the absence of any system of proportional representation in England’s local government outside London means that the true intentions of voters are not carried through into the results. On a simple proportional split of the actual vote in Exeter, Labour would have had 18 seats instead of 30, and the Greens would have had 4 seats instead of none.
So it’s business as usual, and the purpose of this blog remains as relevant as ever.
The next post will start the exploration of how we can change to achieve the vision.