Great Yarmouth Borough Council referendum on changes to how councillors are elected is delayed until September because of snap general election

Ballots will be sent out later in the year. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ballots will be sent out later in the year. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

With the Brexit vote, snap general election and council elections, voters could be forgiven for feeling fatigued.

An example of the letter to be sent to voters about the referendum. Photo: GYBC

An example of the letter to be sent to voters about the referendum. Photo: GYBC - Credit: Archant

Now people in Great Yarmouth are yet again being asked to vote, this time in a referendum which could change the way councillors are elected.

The options are to elect the whole borough council every four years or keep the current system of electing a third at a time.

The vote was planned to take place in June but was moved to September after the snap general election was announced for June 8.

A council spokesman explained: 'The change aims to reduce the number of polls the public and staff are involved in at any one time, so they can focus their attentions on the national general election and then, separately, on the referendum.'

Arguments for and against either system will be presented to voters in a letter agreed by councillors which will be sent out with ballot papers.

MORE: Residents asked to take part in second referendum in a year

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Great Yarmouth Borough Council has operated under a system of elections by thirds since it was formed in 1974.

Each councillor serves a term of four years, producing a four-yearly cycle of elections. The last cycle of borough council elections were held in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the next cycle will be 2018, 2019 and 2020.

A move to whole council elections would mean that borough elections would be held once every four years, rather than in three out of every four years.

These are the same arrangements that exist in all other Norfolk authorities with the exception of Norwich, which still holds election by thirds.

The change would see the whole council elected at the same time resulting in a £120,000 saving per election cycle.

The last borough-wide referendum was held in May 2011 when voters were asked if they wanted to introduce an elected mayor of Great Yarmouth, led by the Labour Party.

Below are reasons stated for and against either system, which will be presented to voters.

Reasons to change to whole council elections:

• 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;

• The results from whole council elections are simpler and more easily understood by the electorate.

• Potential increased turn out at local elections;

• There would be a clearer opportunity for the electorate to change the political composition of the council once every four years;

• Whole council elections would enable comprehensive induction and training for all councillors at the commencement of the four year cycle.

• Holding whole council elections once every four years would result in a significant cashable saving of £50k per annum for the council. *Please note however this does not take into account any by-elections within the four years.

Reasons to keep elections by thirds:

• 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.

• Electing by thirds means there is more continuity of councillors without any chance of them all being replaced in a single election.

• An election by thirds provides a regular influx of newly elected councillors who can bring new ideas and fresh approaches to the council

• More frequent elections help to keep voters engaged.

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