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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Study says voting 'should change'
polling station
The inquiry explored alternatives to the present system
A Welsh Assembly inquiry into how council elections are run has concluded that the current first-past-the-post system should be ditched in favour of proportional representation (PR) by 2008.

The Sunderland Commission report has also recommended that the voting age be reduced from 18 to 16.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan : unlikely to give support

Set up as part of the Assembly Coalition Deal in June 20001, the nine-strong committee, led by Eric Sunderland, has spent the past year probing how councillors are elected.

The review started as one of the conditions within the coalition deal that was brokered between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Having considered seven voting models, the Sunderland report recommended a form of PR known as the Single Transferable Vote.

The system, if adopted, would allow electors more than one vote in multi-member constituencies - as in the last assembly elections.

"We know that each ward is going to elect maybe five members, so we have an electoral quota - the number of votes required for those people to be elected," said political analyst Denis Balsom.

"Once a candidate has got those votes, the votes they have in excess of the quota are redistributed to their second choices and that continues until five candidates are elected."

The system is already in use in Northern Ireland and has also been recommended for introduction in Scotland by an independent review.

Conflict brewing

First Minister Rhodri Morgan is expected to reject the report especially as the Welsh Labour party rejected PR in a vote at its Llandudno conference earlier this year.

Opponents of the plan point out that reversing the decision of this vote would be unpopular.

Peter Law AM
Peter Law: Warning to party leaders

"Any Welsh Labour leader backing this has to remember we have got a party conference decision on this and they take the risk of seeing the corridors running with blood," said Peter Law, Blaenau Gwent AM.

But a Labour refusal to consider the plans could lead to a conflict with the Liberal Democrats and threaten a continued coalition in the future.

"My personal view is that it should be a precondition," said Peter Black, Lib Dem Deputy Minister for Local Government.

"If we go into a partnership agreement with this report, it should form a major part of the coalition agreement that we should implement it."

The other hurdle is that the UK government would have to legislate on the assembly's behalf to make any changes.

Although the Wales Office would be involved, responsibility rests with the new Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The assembly could not change the voting system without approval from Westminster.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Rhys Evans
A nine-strong committee has been probing how Welsh councils are elected"
See also:

12 May 02 | Scotland
05 Jan 02 | Scotland
27 Apr 01 | Scotland
11 Mar 01 | Scotland
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