April 14, 2023 3.00 pm This story is over 12 months old

‘Growing crisis’ for democracy as nearly 90% of parish elections go uncontested

Some seats won’t be filled at all

Around 87% of parish and town council wards have gone uncontested in this year’s local elections in what leaders believe is a “growing crisis” for local democracy.

A lack of awareness around parish councils and declining community involvement have been blamed for the falling interest.

Out of 429 wards across Lincolnshire – including both parish and town councils – just 38 have been contested by candidates of different affiliations, around 9%.

A total of 372 wards have seen candidates walk into seats due to a lack of competition.

Around 5% of wards received no nominations at all, meaning they will face either a further election later in the year or councillors may be co-opted onto the authority.

East Lindsey District Council – which saw eight wards at a district level go uncontested – also saw the highest number of uncontested parish wards.

Out of 137 parish and town council wards, 113 will go uncontested – 82.48% of seats.

ELDC’s Labour Group leader Councillor Ros Jackson said: “This is a really important issue for democracy, and potentially a growing crisis.”

She said there were a number of causes, including a lack of awareness around parish councils and local government, a drop in the number of volunteers and those available for community involvement following the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis and the poor state of the economy.

“Parish councils are important, helping link more distant upper tiers of government with local communities, fostering pride of place, and carrying out many local functions such as maintaining benches and bus shelters, commenting on planning applications, and running events,” said Councillor Jackson.

“A well-run one can really enhance a community.

“It is disappointing to see many seats uncontested; it’s not good for local democracy for so few people to have a choice at this level of government.”

She suggested the number of parish wards needed reconsidering due to moving populations. For example, Skegness now has one councillor per 1000 residents, while some smaller parishes had one councillor per 50 or 60 residents.

Independent group leader Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders said she felt it was a “sign of the times, unfortunately.

“We have so much news thrown at us 24 hours a day we have become ‘absolutely politicised up’.

“Sadly, so much is down to Westminster these days, there is a frustration on a local level about getting things done – and the funds to do it.

“Issues get people interested and there is such a frustration that common sense fails to prevail that they do get on board … and then realism hits and Netflix wins.”

Here are the figures by district council:

East Lindsey

  • Contested: 14
  • Uncontested: 113
  • No Nominations: 10
  • Total: 137

Boston

  • Contested: 2
  • Uncontested: 19
  • No Nominations: 0
  • Total: 21

South Holland

  • Contested: 3
  • Uncontested: 26
  • No Nominations: 6
  • Total: 35

South Kesteven

  • Contested: 11
  • Uncontested: 69
  • No Nominations: 3
  • Total: 83

North Kesteven

  • Contested: 4
  • Uncontested: 69
  • No Nominations: 0
  • Total: 73

Lincoln

Does not have parishes

West Lindsey

  • Contested: 4
  • Uncontested: 76
  • No Nominations: 0
  • Total: 80

Total

  • Total parish wards: 429
  • Contested: 38 (8.86%)
  • Uncontested: 372 (86.71%)
  • No Nominations: 19 (4.43%)

Parish councils will be elected on Thursday, May 4, along with district councils. Residents will need ID in order to cast their vote.


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