Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Second Report


PART IV: ELECTIONS

Introduction

208.  Part IV contains three provisions which delegate power to the Secretary of State to make orders to alter the frequency and timing of local council elections.

209.  The Government believes that the use of an order-making power is necessary to effect these changes in particular local authorities or descriptions of local authorities as and when the need or desirability arises (or, indeed, as and when individual local authorities request such changes). It is not currently the Government's intention to make across the board changes to the frequency or timing of local elections. In this respect, the powers are similar to that in s.17 of the Local Government Act 1992 in relation to the implementation of electoral changes proposed by the Local Government Commission. In view of the largely technical and administrative nature of these orders, the Government believes that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate. This is consistent with the approach taken in s.17 of the 1992 Act.

The Powers

CLAUSE 58: POWER TO SPECIFY SCHEMES OF ELECTIONS

210.  Clause 58 gives the Secretary of State the power to make orders to change the scheme of elections in local councils. The schemes of elections which may be applied are detailed in clause 57. Orders made under this power may specify individual councils by name, or they may specify descriptions of councils. An order may specify the years in which elections are to be held, and make transitional provision regarding the holding of initial elections and the retirement of councillors.

211.  Where the specified scheme of elections involves the election of only a proportion of councillors in any one year, the order may include provision for identifying the wards, electoral divisions and councillors that may be affected by such a change. This is necessary because the number of councillors representing a ward in a principal council may not be evenly divisible by the frequency of elections that is being specified for the authority. In such cases, there is a need to be able to identify which seats are to be elected at which elections.

212.  Similarly, in the electoral divisions of counties (which currently have one member per division), it will be necessary to identify which divisions will have elections in any particular year. An order may specify the method to be used for identifying the electoral divisions, wards and councillors in such cases, or it may direct principal councils to propose to the Secretary of State methods for identifying electoral divisions, wards and councillors.

213.  As discussed above, the Government believes that the use of an order-making power is necessary to effect changes to the frequency of elections in particular (named) local authorities or descriptions of local authorities. The Government also believes that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate for this order-making power.

CLAUSE 59: POWER TO CHANGE THE TIMING OF ELECTIONS

214.  Clause 59 gives the Secretary of State the power to make orders to change the years in which local authority (including parish and community council) elections are held. Orders made under this power may specify individual councils by name, or they may specify descriptions of councils. An order may make transitional provision regarding the retirement of councillors.

215.  The purpose of this power is to enable the timing or phasing of local electoral cycles to be changed without changing the scheme (or frequency) of elections. This provision could be used to re-align the cycles of elections at different levels of representation in a particular place in order to, for example, achieve a better spread, so that elections take place in different years. Conversely, it could be used to provide for a greater coincidence of elections in an area.

216.  The Government does not intend to change the timing of electoral cycles across the board, and this power is intended for ad hoc use. The Government therefore believes that an order-making power is appropriate. In line with the power in clause 58, the Government also takes the view that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate.

CLAUSE 60: POWER TO MAKE INCIDENTAL PROVISIONS ETC

217.  Clause 60 gives the Secretary of State a power to make incidental, consequential, transitional or supplemental provisions further to any substantive orders made under clauses 58 or 59.

218.  The purpose of this power is to enable separate minor provisions to be made after an order bringing about changes under clauses 58 or 59 has been made. This is necessary to ensure that further consequential etc changes that may be necessary following an order under clauses 58 or 59 can be made without having to make a further substantive order under those powers.

219.  The Government believes that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate for this purpose.


 
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