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New Lords committee could be first step towards party funding settlement

20th January 2016
20 Jan 2016

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  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 20th January 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society has strongly welcomed a vote by Peers in the House of Lords this afternoon to set up a cross-party committee on party funding reform - amidst growing concern that the Trade Union Bill is far too one-sided in its approach to the issue.

Peers voted this afternoon (5pm) by 327 votes to 234 in favour of Baroness Smith of Basildon’s motion [2] to create a select committee on the party funding elements of the Trade Union Bill which would force union members to ‘opt in’ to unions’ political funds – potentially cutting off up to £6m of Labour’s funding every year [3].

The motion will establish a new committee ‘to consider the impact of clauses 10 and 11 of the Trade Union Bill [on unions’ Political Funds] in relation to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report, ‘Political Party Finance: ending the big donor culture’’ – a major 2011 report on party funding reform [4].

Peers advocated ‘urgent new legislation to balance those provisions [in the Trade Union Bill] with the other recommendations made in the Committee’s Report’, with the new cross-party select committee set to report by 29 February.

Welcoming the move, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [5]:

“This could be the first step towards a lasting settlement on party funding. As things stand, the current Trade Union Bill could take £6m per year off Labour’s finances, without reforming party funding across the board. We need to clean up the parties’ big donor culture once and for all.”

“Our new polling shows that that 77% of the public think that big donors have too much influence over our politics, and 57% believe that a state-funded political system would be fairer than the one we currently have – up from 41% in 2014 [6]. We need serious cross-party action on this – not tit-for-tat partisan attacks.

“We strongly welcome Peers’ important decision on this Bill and we hope parties engage constructively with this new committee to sort out the mess that is Britain’s party funding system.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes to Editors

In 2014 the ERS published ‘Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals’. Read the full report and recommendations here.

[1] See here http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/trade-union-bill-77-public-think-big-donors-have-too-much-influence-parties

[2] See here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trade-union-bill-lib-dems-to-help-labour-prevent-bill-from-stifling-party-funding-a6816856.html and here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldordpap.htm

[3] More information on how the Trade Union Bill will affect Labour Party funding is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33537550

[4]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228646/8208.pdf

[5] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[6] Polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 24-27 February 2014, available here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/GQR%20public%20poll%206%20March%202014(1).pdf

Carwyn vs Nigel: Both sides need to deal with Europe's democratic deficit, say Electoral Reform Society

8th January 2016
8 Jan 2016

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  • Statement comes as Carwyn Jones and Nigel Farage go head to head on Monday at the Institute of Welsh Affairs
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 12:00, 7th January 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society have today called for both sides of the EU debate to ‘deal with the democratic deficit Britain faces’ - both within and outside of Europe –ahead of a major debate on Monday at the Institute of Welsh Affairs [1].

The Society is calling for a ‘real debate’ on Britain’s democratic relationship with Europe, beyond simple in/out divides. The ERS says both camps should address arguments around the democratic deficit – whether Britain stays in the European Union or not.

Ahead of the debate, the ERS are making key four key recommendations:

 

1.    Change the voting system for electing MEPs from a ‘closed list’ to an open, candidate-centred electoral system, the Single Transferable Vote

2.    Consensus should be sought with Ministers in the devolved nations on the stances taken by the government during EU policy negotiations

3.    Allow Ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to take part in meetings of the EU’s Council of Ministers

4.    Open up the EU policy-making process to enable  citizens to become more involved

 

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [2]:

“There are clearly major democratic issues with the EU which both sides have to face up to. We need a real debate - beyond simple in/out divides - on Britain’s future, whether that is in or out of Europe.

“Carwyn Jones has in the past raised the issue of the so-called ‘Bridgend Question’ – the fact that in the European Council of Ministers, Britain’s case on for example farming policy is always put by Westminster’s Minister for Agriculture, regardless of whether Welsh, Scottish or Northern Ireland Ministers agree to the line or not. Now he needs to address this question in the context of the referendum. If voters choose to stay in the EU, how should this and other aspects of the democratic deficit be addressed?

“And there are questions for Nigel Farage too – if Britain does vote to leave the EU, it will have no say over the trade rules we’ll need to comply with in order to conduct our business with Europe. How will Britain outside Europe ensure that citizens and their elected government have real influence over these issues? And if Wales votes to stay in the UK but England votes to leave, should England’s votes pull Wales out of the European Union?

“If we leave Europe, we will need a constitutional convention of citizens to look at how we move forward as a democracy, after what will be a huge political change. We’ll also need to ensure people in Wales and the UK as a whole have some say on whatever treaties or trade relationships we sign up to. And if we remain in Europe, there are vital reforms we must make to improve the UK’s democratic relationship with the EU - and give Wales more of a voice over European affairs.

“For a start, the voting system for the EU elections puts power in the hands of parties, rather than citizens, allowing party bosses to draw up candidate lists behind closed doors. We need a system which lets the public decide: a candidate-centred voting system - the Single Transferable Vote – where citizens can actually pick the representatives themselves.

“Secondly, Ministers from the devolved nations should have a right to hold UK ministers to account on the stances taken by the government during negotiations. The discussions in the run-up to the vote affect people in Wales, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland, significantly – whether it’s in terms of employee rights or free trade, environmental legislation or government vetoes.   

“And if we vote to stay in, Welsh Ministers should have the opportunity to take part in meetings of the Council of Ministers. It is not right that they are locked out of essential debates. Other EU countries such as Germany and Belgium allow federal regions to participate – there’s no reason we can’t.

“Welsh and British citizens also need far more of a say over what happens in the EU – including shaping EU legislation. From citizens’ assemblies to public hearings and open debates on EU legislation in Parliament, we can open up the policy-making process so that the people affected by European law aren’t left out in the cold if the UK votes to stay in.

“The elephant in the room then is clearly a need for a proper debate on democracy and our relationship with Europe. The choice to remain or leave has huge implications for Wales and the rest of Britain’s constitutional future. Stay or go, the sooner we start talking about this, the better.”

In 2014 the ERS published ‘Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit’ which laid out 12 major recommendations on EU democratic reform. Read the full report and recommendations here.

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] See here http://www.iwa.org.uk/en/events/view/300 or here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/nigel-farage-carwyn-jones-go-10602023

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

Strathclyde review: ‘This is not what real and lasting Lords reform looks like’

17th December 2015
17 Dec 2015

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  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 11:00, 17th December 2015
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Commenting on Lord Strathclyde’s proposals to scrap the veto power of the House of Lords on secondary legislation announced today [1], Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [2]:

“Scrapping the Lords’ veto over secondary legislation was rarely mentioned before the Lords voted against the Government’s tax credits proposal in October, yet suddenly it is all the rage. We cannot make piecemeal changes to the Lords’ powers every time there is a disagreement between the two Houses.

“If the Government accept the recommendations of Lord Strathclyde, they will be scrambling in response to the politics of the day, rather than implementing real, lasting and democratic changes.

“This proposal would require primary legislation, which will be a real challenge to get through Parliament. If the Government is planning to go to the trouble of passing a law to reform the Lords, they should stick to their official party policy and pass the one reform people really want – an elected second chamber.  

“There are all sorts of problems with the House of Lords, like the fact that in the 2010-2015 parliament, £360,000 was claimed by Peers in years they failed to vote once, or that it has more members who used to work in the Royal Household than from manual labour backgrounds [3]. Instead of rushing to put out fires, the Government needs to look at the issue of Lords reform in the round.

“The problem with the House of Lords isn’t its blocking power – it’s that it has no legitimacy. We have the second largest upper House in the world (after China’s), and the only fully-unelected second chamber in Europe. But to have a truly effective revising chamber it needs to have a mandate, and that can only come through people being able to hold Peers to account.

Just one in ten think the Lords should remain completely unelected [4]. This ‘headless chicken’ approach to Lords reform won’t work. We need to see genuine democratic reform of this bloated and out-of-date chamber.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

The ERS will be putting out a wide range of polling on democratic and constitutional issues, including the Lords, proportional representation, and party funding, over the next couple of months. For more information contact Josiah Mortimer (details above). 

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35117990

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[3] See the ERS’ recent ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/its-official-house-lords-completely-bust

[4] http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/poll-just-one-ten-think-lords-should-remain-unelected

The ERS’ logo is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/co61g3209r2okcd/ERS%20Logo%20colour%20on%20white%20348%20x%20220.jpg?dl=0

Poll: 57% of public think Westminster seats should match votes

16th December 2015
16 Dec 2015

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MPs to debate Proportional Representation today in Commons

  • New polling shows majority think number of seats parties get should reflect popular vote – to just 9% who disagree
  • 51% (to 28%) are ‘unhappy with the current electoral system and want it to change’
  • Polling comes as Jonathan Reynolds MP proposes Proportional Representation Bill in Commons

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society

For immediate release, 09:00, 16th December 2015

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society has released polling today showing strong public support for a fairer voting system for Westminster, as Jonathan Reynolds MP proposes a Bill to secure Proportional Representation for General Elections [1].

The poll, by BMG Research [2], shows 57% of the public think ‘the number of seats a party gets should broadly reflect its proportion of the total votes cast’ – compared to just 9% who disagree. 51% are ‘unhappy with the current electoral system and want it to change’, in contrast with only 28% who are satisfied.  

The findings come as Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds proposes a Ten Minute Rule Motion today (Wednesday 16th December) to implement a more proportional voting system for Westminster elections, through the ‘Representation of the People (Proportional Representation) Bill’ [3]. The Bill is the first chance for MPs to vote on PR in many years, and proposes adopting the Additional Member System used in Wales and Scotland for Assembly and Parliamentary elections. Over 6,000 people have so far written to their MPs asking them to back the Bill.

The polling found that support for reform is broadly consistent across the political spectrum, with 62% of those who describe themselves as on the right thinking Parliamentary seats should match votes, as well as 70% of those on the left. Similarly, 51% of those on the right are unhappy with the current voting system and want reform, alongside 59% of those who describe themselves as on the left of the political spectrum.

Proportionality is backed across all parties, with 55% of Conservatives agreeing or strongly agreeing that seats should reflect vote shares, 63% of Labour supporters and 77% of Lib Dems. 68% of UKIP supporters back the principle of proportionality.

The findings follow a similar poll following the General Election showing that 61% of the public back electoral reform [4], in the aftermath of what the ERS called ‘the most disproportionate election result in British history’ [5].

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [6]:

“These findings show that voters are still angry about the most disproportionate election result in history, with broad cross-party support for a fairer voting system. Politics has changed so much over the past few years, with more people than ever supporting a wider range of parties – yet their voices are being ignored.

“We’re not alone in saying it either - in May, nearly half a million people signed petitions calling for a proportional voting system, joined by five party leaders from across the spectrum, while a strong majority of the public back reform.

“The poll comes at a crucial time, with Jonathan Reynolds MP proposing a Bill to secure a fairer voting system this Wednesday. The coalition for reform is building.

“Multi-party politics is here to stay, but our old-fashioned two-party system can’t cope with the choices of modern voters.

“We clearly need a much fairer voting system, so we urge MPs to get behind both the British public and Jonathan Reynolds MP’s Bill and fix our broken democracy.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

The ERS will be putting out a wide range of polling on democratic and constitutional issues, including the Lords, proportional representation, and party funding, over the next month. For more information contact Josiah Mortimer (details above). 

[1] Polling by BMG Research of 1,504 residents aged 18+ in the UK, conducted at the end of October. For full cross-tabs  contact Josiah Mortimer.

[2] BMG Research: http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[3] More info available here: http://electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/putting-pr-parliament

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/general-election-2015-sixty-per-cent-of-people-want-voting-reform-says-survey-10224354.html

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/electoral-reform-society-result-nail-in-coffin-first-past-the-post

[6] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

The ERS’ logo is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/co61g3209r2okcd/ERS%20Logo%20colour%20on%20white%20348%20x%20220.jpg?dl=0

Transparency campaigners welcome Parliamentary Committee’s call for stronger Scottish Lobbying Bill

15th December 2015
15 Dec 2015

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  • For immediate release – 15:15, 15th December 2015
  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT)
  • For more quotes, information or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, Electoral Reform Society Scotland Director, on 07940 523842

Transparency campaigners have today welcomed recommendations from a key Parliamentary Committee on the Scottish Government’s Lobbying Bill, describing the calls as a “strong push towards genuine lobbying transparency.” The Committee has followed the Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT) in calling for the scope of the bill to be widened significantly.

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s Stage 1 report on the Lobbying (Scotland) Bill today suggested that the current proposals to limit regulated lobbying to face-to-face oral communication could “leave a great deal of important information unrecorded and create a loophole for those wishing to conceal their activity.” The report recommends that the definition of regulated lobbying should be expanded to include all forms of communication.

It also suggests that lobbying of public officials other than MSPs and Ministers should be considered for registration, and that parliament might choose to ask lobbyists to disclose how much they spend on campaigns.

Willie Sullivan, director of ERS Scotland said:

“These recommendations show just how pioneering the Scottish Parliament can be when it works well. The Committee has given a strong push towards genuine lobbying transparency, and the Lobbying Bill should now be improved to close the loopholes."

“This report has addressed many of the problems with the Government’s bill, and has laid down a challenge for MSPs to follow suit. As the report makes clear, it is crucial that all forms of communication are included in a register of lobbying, as well as the lobbying of senior civil servants and special advisors – things which are left out of the current Bill."

“The Government can and should go further to ensure the Scottish public are not kept in the dark about who meets their representatives and civil servants, or how much is being spent on trying to change the laws that effect all of us. The Bill needs to include financial disclosure in the register of lobbying activity, so that Scots can see how much is being spent influencing policy-makers.”

“If these recommendations are put into practice, this bill could be huge step forward for lobbying transparency, and an example for the rest of the world to follow. It’s up to the rest of the Scottish Parliament to follow the Committee’s lead and show that they really care about transparency and a democracy fit for the 21st century.”

Dr. Will Dinan of Spinwatch said:

"The SPPA committee has clearly identified some of the key problems with the draft bill. If the Scottish Government are prepared to accept a few sensible, straightforward changes, the bill could yet make lobbying in Scotland more accountable. The recognition that financial disclosure should be kept under review is also welcome, though it would be preferable from a transparency perspective to write that into the legislation now."

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said:

"We welcome the Standards Committee's report, which includes valuable improvements for a stronger lobbying register. The Committee's recommendations would give the public a much clearer picture of who is trying to influence their politicians. The Scottish government should listen to the committee and close the loopholes in its Bill. 

Lobbyists should not be allowed to avoid transparency by talking to politicians by phone or email. The lobbying register should cover contact with key decision-makers across government and the civil service, not just ministers and MSPs. Lobbyists should be required to declare how much they are spending to influence decisions, whether it's £500 or £500,000."

For more quotes, information or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, Electoral Reform Society Scotland Director, on 07940 523842

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The Committee’s recommendations are available here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/94898.aspx

ERS, Spinwatch and Unlock Democracy are all members of the The Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT) coalition, whose website is available here: http://www.lobbyingtransparency.org/salt

EU referendum: MPs urged to back votes at 16 on Tuesday

7th December 2015
7 Dec 2015

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MPs to debate whether to retain or remove votes at 16 for EU Referendum Bill, after Peers voted for it in November

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 10:30, 7th December 2015
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

MPs will vote on whether to retain or remove the right of 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum tomorrow (8th December) – with the Electoral Reform Society urging them to ‘keep it in the Bill’ after Lords voted to back the move in November [1].

The EU Referendum Bill will go to ‘ping pong’ - the ‘Consideration of Lords Amendments’ stage - on Tuesday [2], which will include voting on whether to keep votes at 16 in the Bill.

The Electoral Reform Society are calling on MPs to follow the success of the Scottish referendum by giving the 1.5m 16 and 17 year olds in the UK ‘a voice in their democratic future’.  

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [3]:

“Our membership of the EU is a crucial issue for the future. After the great success of votes at 16 during the Scottish referendum, it would be a missed opportunity to deny young citizens the vote in the EU referendum.

”In the independence referendum, 75% of 16 and 17 year olds voted and 97% said they would do so in the future. They accessed more information than any other age group, and registered in their thousands. It’s a lesson that’s been taken on board in Holyrood, with the Scottish Parliament unanimously backing votes at 16 for all Scottish elections in June. And the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP supports it too [4].

“With 16 and 17 year olds getting the vote in Scotland and potentially Wales too [5], it would be insulting to the 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds across the UK for the government to deny them the vote in this crucial referendum. The first generation to receive citizenship education should have a voice in their democratic future, and the government should seize the chance to make it happen.

“David Cameron said during the election he wanted a debate on the issue. Now we are having that debate, it’s time to give young people an equal voice in our democracy. We urge MPs to keep votes at 16 in the Bill.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

 

Notes

[1] Peers backed votes at 16 in the Bill by 283 to 211. Column 180 (vote on Amendment 3) - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/151118-0002.htm#15111858000643

[2] http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/europeanunionreferendum/stages.html

[3] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[4] Read Ruth Davidson MSP’s reasons here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/ruth-davidsons-lessons-scottish-referendum

[5] The largest ever consultation on the issue in Wales showed this week that 53% of young people in Wales (to just 29% against) back the move. http/www.yourassembly.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Vote@16-REPORT-E-small.pdf

The ERS’ logo is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/co61g3209r2okcd/ERS%20Logo%20colour%20on%20white%20348%20x%20220.jpg?dl=0

 

Autumn Statement: opposition party funding cut is ‘bad news for Scottish voters’

26th November 2015
26 Nov 2015

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The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has suggested that the government’s decision to cut public funding for opposition parties [1] will undermine Scotland’s representation at Westminster.

The Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday that ‘Short money’ – funding which goes to opposition parties in order to level the playing field and ensure democratic scrutiny – will be cut by 19%.

ERS Scotland has challenged the decision as ‘highly worrying for democracy’ in Scotland, given that 58 of the nation’s 59 MPs are not in government.

Willie Sullivan [2], Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland, said:

“The decision to cut funding for opposition parties is bad news for democracy in Scotland and across the UK. With 58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs not in government, it is particularly bad for Scottish representation at Westminster, and can only undermine the ability of those MPs to ensure that Scotland’s voters are effectively represented in parliament.

“Short money is designed to level the playing field and ensure that opposition parties can hold the government of the day to account. The decision to slash Short money disproportionately hits the ability of Scottish MPs to scrutinise the government, and Scottish voters will lose out.

“Recent upheavals in Scottish politics were partly the result of a perception that political parties at Westminster were not representing Scotland's voters properly - but this measure risks making it worse. Removing public money from opposition parties makes them more likely to depend on big donors, something that is highly worrying for our democracy.

“The system of party funding across the UK is already a mess, and this risks being seen as a partisan effort to further reduce opposition parties’ capacity to hold the government to account.

“The government’s plans represent a totally counter-productive approach to party funding, which should be reformed in a manner agreed on by all parties, so that they can be more accountable to voters rather than big donors.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director, on 07940523842 or Willie.Sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk

For more of the ERS’ research on party funding, see our recent report, ‘Deal or No Deal: How to Put an End to Party Funding Scandals’: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/deal-or-no-deal

Notes

[1] Point 10.8: ‘Reducing the Cost of Politics’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015-documents/spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015

[2] A photo of Willie Sullivan is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vo67gyvq2z10baa/Willie%20Sullivan%202%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0 or here https://www.dropbox.com/s/3o8fxa80ymc7znl/Willie%20Sullivan.jpg?dl=0

The ERS Scotland logo is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tzyhbx2i8b8ewwf/ERS-Scotland-Social.jpg?dl=0

Autumn Statement: opposition party funding cut is ‘bad news for democracy'

25th November 2015
25 Nov 2015

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  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 17:00, 25th November 2015
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society has challenged the government’s decision to cut public funding for opposition parties by a fifth [1].

The Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday that ‘Short money’ – funding which goes to opposition parties in order to level the playing field and ensure democratic scrutiny – will be cut by 19%.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [2]:

“The decision to cut public funding for opposition parties by 19% is bad news for democracy. The UK already spends just a tenth of the European average on funding parties [3]. Short money is designed to level the playing field and ensure that opposition parties can hold the government of the day to account. This cut could therefore be deeply damaging for accountability.

“The whole party funding system is a complete mess as it is, but this measure risks making it worse. By removing public money from the mix, this cut risks making parties even more reliant on big donors – with all the potential for corruption that entails.

“Unilateral moves like this risk being seen as overtly partisan, and could make it even harder for parties to get round the table and thrash out a deal on the real problem – their over-reliance on big donors’ money. Until we see a cap on donations and a lower spending limit, taking away public money from opposition parties will just make things worse.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

For more of the ERS’ research on party funding, see our recent report, ‘Deal or No Deal: How to Put an End to Party Funding Scandals’: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/deal-or-no-deal

Notes

[1] Point 10.8: ‘Reducing the Cost of Politics’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015-documents/spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

The ERS logo is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/co61g3209r2okcd/ERS%20Logo%20colour%20on%20white%20348%20x%20220.jpg?dl=0

Electoral Reform Society: “Merseyside devolution deal has no mention of democracy”

18th November 2015
18 Nov 2015

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Press release from the Electoral Reform Society

For immediate release, Wednesday 18th November, 12:00

Contact: Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

  • Public should have a say on devolution deal – voters so far left out of negotiations
  • Wrong to impose mayor on Merseyside residents without consultation, say campaigners
  • Consultation could follow pioneering ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ model co-organised by ERS and universities in Sheffield and Southampton on local devolution deals

The Electoral Reform Society has today called on local council leaders and the government to ‘give the public a say’ in the Merseyside devolution deal.

The Society are calling out devolution deals which are being done behind closed doors, amid fears that the devolution process across the UK has so far been made up of back-room deals by politicians and officials - rather than citizens.

Campaigners believe councils and the government should give the public a ‘meaningful’ say on the devolution deal, after the proposals included plans to impose an elected mayor on Merseyside.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“While it’s fantastic that Merseyside will be getting more powers, it’s absolutely essential that local people are involved in the process. Citizens in Liverpool and the surrounding areas shouldn’t be left out in the cold while devolution takes place.

“It would be a huge mistake for these important decisions about local democracy to be made behind closed doors. It’s vital the public in the region get a say - otherwise, these devolution plans risk floundering and becoming an unpopular mess.

“It’s simply misguided to impose a Merseyside mayor without asking local people if they want one. Why not ask the public what they want? A democratic process could look at whether they back having an elected mayor, what area devolution should cover, what powers it should have and what the Combined Authority’s priorities should be.

“There must be real public involvement now with a real chance of influencing the outcome. This has to be started quickly - otherwise the risk is that citizens in the region will feel it’s a done deal.

“Let’s have a real debate about devolution and decentralisation. The ERS and Universities from across the country recently ran two ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ [1] on local devolution deals in Sheffield and Southampton. Local people were brought together to discuss and vote on the plans in their areas – with great success. It’s time for something similar in Merseyside. It’s time to let the public in.”

Contact: Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

ENDS

Notes

The Merseyside devolution deal is available here.

[1] The Citizens’ Assemblies were conducted by Democracy Matters, a group of leading academics from the University of Southampton, the University of Sheffield, University College London, the University of Westminster and the Electoral Reform Society in a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. For more information about the ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ project, see here: www.citizensassembly.co.uk

Electoral Reform Society: Public need a say on West Midlands devolution deal

18th November 2015
18 Nov 2015

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07979 696 265

Electoral Reform Society: Public need a say on West Midlands devolution deal

Press release from the Electoral Reform Society

For immediate release, Wednesday 18th November, 14:00

Contact: Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

  • Biggest devolution deal to date needs voters to be involved in the process [1]
  • Wrong to impose mayor on the West Midlands residents without consultation, say campaigners
  • ‘Real consultation’ could follow pioneering ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ [2] model co-organised by ERS and universities in Sheffield and Southampton on local devolution deals

The Electoral Reform Society has today called on local council leaders and the government to ‘give the public a say’ in the West Midlands devolution deal.

The campaign group are calling out devolution deals which are being done behind closed doors, amid fears that the devolution process across the UK has so far been made up of back-room deals by politicians and officials - rather than citizens.

Campaigners believe councils and the government should give the public a ‘meaningful’ say on the devolution deal, after the proposals included plans to impose an elected mayor on The West Midlands.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“While it’s fantastic that the West Midlands will be getting more powers, it’s absolutely essential that local people are involved in the process. Citizens in the region shouldn’t be left out in the cold while devolution takes place.

“It would be a huge mistake for these important decisions about local democracy to be made behind closed doors. It’s vital the public in the Midlands get a say - otherwise, these devolution plans risk floundering and becoming an unpopular mess.

“For a start, it’s simply misguided to impose a West Midlands mayor without asking local people if they want one. Why not ask the public what they think? A democratic process could look at whether they back having an elected mayor, what area devolution should cover, what powers it should have and what the Combined Authority’s priorities should be.

“There must be real public involvement now with a real chance of influencing the outcome. This has to be started quickly - otherwise the risk is that citizens in the region will feel it’s a done deal.

“Let’s have a real debate about devolution and decentralisation. The ERS and Universities from across the country recently ran two ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ [2] on local devolution deals in Sheffield and Southampton. Local people were brought together to discuss and vote on the plans in their areas – with great success. It’s time for something similar in the West Midlands – council bosses and officials need to let the public in.”

Contact: Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

ENDS

Notes

The Electoral Reform Society is a campaign organisation that tries to build a better democracy. For more information see here: www.electoral-reform.org.uk

[1] More info on the West Midlands devolution deal is available here.

[2] The Citizens’ Assemblies were conducted by Democracy Matters, a group of leading academics from the University of Southampton, the University of Sheffield, University College London, the University of Westminster and the Electoral Reform Society in a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. For more information about the ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ project, see here: www.citizensassembly.co.uk