A new system to elect councillors in Castle Point has been agreed – meaning people will now go to the polls every four years.

Whole council elections will be held in May 2024 as a result of a review of electoral arrangements by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England and this consultation will not affect that arrangement.

However, the next borough council elections after that will be held in May 2028 and every subsequent four years.

The council make-up had previously been decided under the 'election by thirds' arrangements – whereby a third of councillors are elected every year over a four-year period. In the fourth year voting is for county councillors at Essex County Council. That next election is in 2025.

While under 'thirds’ the next borough council elections - following May 2024 - would have been held in May 2026. It was argued the change would bring in more political stability and save the council money.

The current administration had argued that a “clear mandate” from the electorate once every four years would enable the council to adopt a more strategic, long-term approach to policy and decision-making and focus less on yearly election campaigning.

Councillor Dave Blackwell, leader of the council, said: “Council is persuaded by arguments for the whole council elections which in summary including political stability, more time to effect change, increase democratic understanding and engagement and reduce cost of democracy and less disruption to public buildings.”

The council says results from whole-council elections are simpler and more easily understood by the electorate which may increase turn-out at local elections and there would be a clearer opportunity for the electorate to change the political composition of the council.

The decision on January 31 followed a consultation from which a total of 257 responses were received.

Of those 154, equivalent to 60 per cent, favoured a change to whole council elections with 103 indicating a wish to stay the same.

People had been asked to consider that elections in three years out of every four provide more frequent opportunity for electors to vote and to influence the political make-up of the council.

Councillor Beverly Egan (Cons, St Peter’s) said: “The consultation in my view did not give an overwhelming remit for change.

“I’ve also considered the financial implications a change could bring and fully understand in these financially challenging times councils find themselves in the need to do so but what price democracy?

“The current system is well established and understood so all-out elections once every four years where residents have to choose three instead of just one councillor may cause confusion.

“My biggest concern by only having these elections every four years is that those young people who turn 18 just after one of those elections will have to wait years before exercising their democratic right at the ballot box.

“We need to be encouraging our community to engage with the democratic system not making it harder.”

At the special council meeting, 25 councillors voted for change with six voting against.