COUNCILLORS in Mid Devon want the government to ditch what they are calling the outdated system used to decide elections.

The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system the UK uses to elect MPs and councillors has been used for over a century, but an increasing number of democracies are turning to proportional representation (PR).

Its proponents claim it produces parliaments and councils that better represent their communities, with political parties gaining seats in line with their share of the vote.

This contrasts with the FPTP system, where the party that secures the single-largest amount of votes represents the entire constituency or local ward – effectively a winner-takes-it-all outcome.

But opponents of PR say it takes longer to form governments and can elongate decision-making.

Voters were asked to choose whether to adopt a form of the system in a referendum in 2011, but preferred to keep with the first-past-the-post.

Last week Cllr Beckett Fish (Liberal Democrat, Tiverton Cranmore) put forward a motion to Mid Devon District Council’s full council meeting urging it to write to the government to ask it to “change our outdated electoral laws” to enable PR in UK general elections.

“FPTP originated when land-owning aristocrats dominated parliament and voting was restricted to property-owning men,” he said.

“In Europe, only the UK and authoritarian Belarus still use archaic single-round FPTP for general elections, and internationally, PR is used to elect the parliaments of more than 80 countries.”

During the meeting, Cllr Fish added that constituency seats “often go to someone with less than half of the constituency’s support” and that this was causing greater voter apathy.

“Like many people seeking to be elected, I’ve knocked on a lot of doors and one of the most common things that people say is that they think voting is a waste of time and that politicians are in it for themselves,” he said.

“Far too many people are uninterested (in politics) and don’t believe they can make a difference at an election, and this needs to change.”

He claimed that PR would end “minority rule”.

He added that in 2019, 43.6 per cent of the vote produced a government with 56.2 per cent of the seats and 100 per cent of the power.

While the motion received broad support, some spoke out against it.

Cllr Martin Binks (Conservative, Yeo) said the motion was “interesting coming from a group of politicians who have voted themselves onto every single one of the outside bodies on the council”.

And Cllr Rhys Roberts (Conservative, Cadbury) added that most people rejected the idea of PR when asked about it.

“I, like the majority of people, reject PR when given an opportunity to vote on the issue,” he said.

“Other than making a party-political point, what is the point in supporting this motion?

“I suggest there would be a proper time and place (in the future) to raise this issue, and feel the residents of Mid Devon will come to a view on it then.”

Cllr Nikki Woollatt (Independent, Cullompton St Andrew’s) supported the motion, but suggested an amendment so that the government was asked to implement PR in local elections as well as general ones, and also suggested that the leader of the opposition, Sir Kier Starmer, also be written to as well as the government.

The council voted in favour of the amended motion, with four councillors voting against.

Bradley Gerrard