Great Yarmouth residents asked to take part in second referendum in a year

A ballot box. Picture: James Bass

A ballot box. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2011

Great Yarmouth residents are to be asked to take part in another referendum in May.

At a meeting of the full borough council this evening (January 17) councillors voted in favour of holding a vote to coincide with the county council elections giving voters a say in a constitutional change.

The changes concern elections and people will be given the choice between a third of the council being elected every year or the whole council being elected in one go every four years.

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.

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The last boroughwide 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.

The referendum result was 15,595 no votes to 10,051 yes votes.

Below are reasons stated for and against either system, which was presented in a document to councillors.

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.