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Election shake-up could favour big parties in Southend
12:30pm Wednesday 6th March 2013 in Local News
PARTY politics could take hold in Southend if the council switches to electing all its councillors every four years.
Politicians fear the independent vote could evaporate if planned cost-cutting measures are brought to the fore in time for the next general election in 2015.
The changed system could see all 51 members of Southend Council elected at the same time as Westminster’s MPs - potentially polarising the town along party lines.
Martin Terry, spokesman for Southend’s Independent group, said: “I am supportive of the switch, but not of the idea of holding it at the same time as national elections.
“To me, national politics should not get involved at the town hall, and this risks that happening.
“I’ll be honest - it would hurt our vote, but I don’t oppose this in a selfish way, I genuinely believe that most people in Southend do not want national politics to get in the way.”
At the moment, council elections are held in three out of every four years, with 17 councillors being elected each time.
Bosses believe up to £200,000 a year could be saved by holding four-yearly elections which coincided with general or European elections.
If elections are held at the same time as continental or Parliamentary ones, the Government will pay half the cost.
Nigel Holdcroft, the Tory council leader, has been a long-time advocate of the idea, arguing it would both save money, avoid voter “fatigue” and allow ruling groups to see through their plans without the constant disruption of annual elections.
However, statistics show the increased turn out which comes with combined elections often favours the big three parties - Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
The move could also lead to wholesale changes at the council following each election, resulting in big swings from one party to another.