Letters: Votes that count

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Hilary Armstrong, the Minister for Local Government, is right ("Prescott and Blair clash on PR elections", 15 April). Proportional representation is not the "secret answer" to problems in town halls - there is nothing "secret" about it.

If the minister intended to imply that PR was not a complete answer to town hall problems, then I could only agree. However, when it has so much more potential to overcome the problems of unaccountability than other proposed reforms - such as the introduction of elected mayors and cabinet systems within the councils - the Government's refusal to include PR as part of its modernisation package raises questions about its commitment to reform.

After the elections on 6 May we will continue to see some councils dominated by a single party in spite of considerable electoral support for opposition parties. With very little opposition to hold the running party to account, conditions are created in which it is easier for bad decisions to be taken.

On 6 May we are also likely to see some turnouts of less than 20 per cent but, with an election system in which so many votes will be no more than futile gestures, a low turnout is only to be expected.

PR might not be the complete answer, but the introduction of a voting system such as STV, which is broadly proportional and which offers more meaningful choices to voters, would go a long way towards making councillors more accountable and encouraging people to vote.

Dr KEN RITCHIE

Chief Executive

Electoral Reform Society

London SE1

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