Southend councillors to decide on all out elections

Southend councillors are set to vote on an election shake-up that could see residents vote for all councillors every four years.

Residents currently elect one third of councillors for a three year term but due to boundary changes, an all out election of all councillors will be held in May 2026.

At a special council meeting on Thursday, councillors will decide whether to keep the four-yearly, whole-council system or carry on with thirds after the 2026 election.

If adopted, the all out elections would save the council £450,000 over the four years.

A public consultation showed wide support from Southend businesses and organisations but residents were almost evenly split with 49.4 per cent in favour of whole council elections and 50.6 per cent in favour of thirds.

Daniel Cowan, leader of the council, said: “I think the difference of opinion between businesses and residents is understandable because they come at it from different points of view. Businesses and organisations will always prefer to have as little change as possible so having predictability in politics is something that I guess they would prefer whereas residents value the opportunity to change administrations if they feel if they aren’t delivering for them.

“It’s really difficult to say one way or the other what’s the right thing to do because there’s merits and drawbacks to both systems. When it comes to council it will be a free vote and everyone will chose the option they feel most closely represents the views of the people.”

Residents who support whole council elections see the benefits of additional councillor time and energy better placed rather than canvassing with money better spent on services.

Those who support thirds were concerned about poor quality councillors and decisions being left for too long without an annual public vote.

Cllr Cowan added: “People who are in favour of thirds it gives them the ability to hold political parties to account perhaps less so individuals in a short space of time but we also have to think about how you avoid disenfranchising certain types of voters for example if you only have a vote once every four years and you just miss being able to vote before you turn 18 the next time you are able to cast a vote won’t be until you’re in your early 20 so their pros and cons to both systems.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter