City Council backs Proportional Voting System

The Progressive Group of councillors has welcomed the backing by Exeter City Council for proportional representation to be used for General Elections, but accused Exeter Labour of double standards by forcing an amendment that blocked the same rights for people in local authority elections.

Green Councillor Carol Bennett put forward the motion calling on councillors to back a system of proportional representation for both local and national elections. While Labour councillors backed PR for general elections they put forward an amendment, effectively opposing the same fair system for local elections. 

Green Party councillor Amy Sparling noted that in May’s local elections, Labour won a total of 12 seats in Exeter – which is 71% of the 17 available seats – on just 46% of the total votes placed. She told the full council meeting:

“We must draw our own conclusions why a party would back Proportional Representation for National Elections but would not want to make sure that the votes of their own City’s residents mattered. Fair votes must be for everyone, no matter what level of government is being elected.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Michael Mitchell gave an impassioned speech,  pointing out he had voted in every General Election since 1970, but that his vote had never counted because under First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) the only votes that count are the ones for the person at the top of the poll. He said:

“The present FPTP system undermines any encouragement for greater public participation. Parties focus on marginal seats, those 40 to 50 seats that might change hands; “safe seats” are forgotten and neglected at election time. 

“Proportional voting systems allow people to vote for what they want, not tactical voting or lending their vote to stop a party they oppose. PR means their vote does count.”

Green councillor Carol Bennett, who proposed the motion, said

With the country coping with an economic and democratic crisis, reform of the voting system to a proportional one has never been more urgent. I welcome the Council’s backing, but Labour need to go further and ensure every vote counts, every time.”



[1] Video of Progressive Group councillors making the case to make every vote count: 

The Progressive Group is made up of Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors on Exeter City Council 

[2] Motion to Full Council meeting on Tuesday 18 October by Councillor Bennett under Standing Order No 6 (Agenda for Council on Tuesday 18th October 2022, 6.00 pm – Exeter City Council – item 14)

The words removed by Labour’s amendment shown in [brackets]

Making Votes Count with Proportional Representation

Council notes:

 ·         Within Europe, only the United Kingdom and authoritarian Belarus still use the archaic First Past the Post (FPTP) system for General [and Local Elections]. Whilst internationally, Proportional Representation (PR) is used to elect parliaments in more than 80 countries.

·         The UK’s First Past the Post voting system curtails voter choice, making millions of votes ineffective, and leaving millions feeling unrepresented and unheard.

·         MPs and other elected representatives would better reflect their communities, leading to improved decision-making, wider participation and increased levels of ownership of decisions taken.

·         PR is already used to elect the parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Council believes that:

·         The FPTP system has contributed to dangerous levels of distrust and disillusionment with our democratic processes and politicians.

·         It is essential that faith is restored in our democratic system and that the public see Parliament as fairly reflecting their views.

·         Our First Past the Post voting system is a significant barrier to restoring this faith and all but guarantees that the balance of opinion among the electorate is not reflected in Parliament.

·         A system of Proportional Representation in which seats match votes and all votes count equally would help to rebuild public trust by ensuring that all political views are represented in Parliament in proportion to their level of public support.

Council therefore resolves:

1      To write to His Majesty’s Government calling for a change in our outdated electoral laws to enable Proportional Representation to be used for general [and local authority] elections.

2      To call upon Exeter’s two MP’s to push for a change to electoral law to permit Proportional Representation and to promote the matter for debate within Parliament.

[3] Labour conference vote in favour of proportional representation –


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