Report on Welsh Assembly reform a ‘key moment in Senedd’s history’

By agency reporter
December 15, 2017

Commenting on the publication of the Expert Panel on Assembly Reform’s final report, Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said, “This report is a key moment in the Assembly’s history, and the proposals will be vital in securing the success of the Senedd in the future.

“Votes at 16, a stronger, more effective assembly, and a more responsive voting system through the Single Transferrable Vote are all essential in revitalising Welsh democracy.

“With new powers after Brexit and further devolution – but no extra resources to deal with them – the Assembly is facing a capacity time bomb. More powers means we need the Members to be able to scrutinise the big decisions that will affect our lives.

A stronger Senedd: “The current provision of 60 AMs is just not sufficient when you consider that Northern Ireland – with just over a million people – has an Assembly of 90, while Scotland has more than double our democratic representation with only 74 per cent more people. There are already signs that legislation and scrutiny here in Wales are taking a hit as a result.

“An extra 20-30 Assembly Members (AMs) – paid for by no longer having MEPs in Brussels – would ensure major spending decisions could be properly checked and held to account.

“MEPs currently cost £1.7million each per year. Since each AM represents a fraction of that cost, Welsh citizens can have more bang for our buck in a stronger, more effective Senedd.

Better for voters: “Improving the Senedd’s voting system is a welcome move. Switching to the Single Transferable Vote system used for Scottish local elections would give voters a stronger say over candidates, and would ensure seats always match votes in a more proportional Assembly.

“Alongside reforming local government elections, this change would go a long way to even further improving the experience of voters at the ballot box, and how that feeds into real representation.

Votes at 16: “Extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in Wales will be a huge boost to our democracy, and a recognition of the importance of bringing young people into politics at an earlier age.

“Giving our school leavers the right to vote allows for a seamless transition from learning about voting, elections and democracy to putting that knowledge into practice. We know that in Scotland, 16 and 17 year olds turn out in greater numbers than 18 to 24 year olds. And the interest is there, with majority of all young people backing the move in Wales.

“Over 89 per cent of 16 and 17 year-olds registered to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, while they accessed more information, and from a wider variety of sources, than any other age-group. The ‘trickle up’ from young people to the rest of the country will make a real difference to interest and participation in our democracy here.

Time to act: “Parties in the Assembly must now take on board these recommendations and, with voters at the core, chart the next steps forward. It is vital that this report does not sit and gather dust.

“Parties now need to take action to ensure that these changes can be introduced for the next Assembly election, scheduled for 2021. That means starting with energy in the new year so that Wales isn’t left short when powers return from Europe.

“This is about creating a stronger Senedd – one that is fit to face the challenges that the next few years will bring. This is an exciting opportunity. Now it’s time to embrace it.”

Read the full report here

* Electoral Reform Society Cymru https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ers-cymru/

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