Fenland has highest number of uncontested seats in England local elections

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Fenland has the highest number of uncontested seats in England’s local elections, according to new research.

Twelve district council seats out of 37 (nearly a third) will be won by candidates on May 2 who will not face an opponent.

The data has been revealed by the Electoral Reform Society.

In total, 300 council seats in England have been guaranteed for one party or individual before a single vote has been cast, affecting around 850,000 potential voters.

Fenland tops the list ahead of Rutland, West Suffolk and Wychavon (in Worcestershire) which each have eight uncontested seats.

Melton and South Holland both have five.

Fenland also comes top out of all councils which have the highest number of guaranteed councillors for one party before any voting has taken place with 15 (Conservatives), ahead of South Holland with 13.

The vast majority of uncontested seats across England will be won by the Conservatives, the analysis shows.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet hundreds of thousands of people are being denied the chance to exercise their most basic democratic right and have their say on who represents them.

“For these potential voters democracy has been cancelled, and they are going totally unheard. It is frankly a disgrace in the 21st century for parties to have landed 300 seats without a single ballot being cast. Around 850,000 potential voters in England live in wards where a party or individual is guaranteed a seat - weeks before polling day.

“Large parts of England are at risk of becoming ‘democracy deserts’. This research also highlights ‘under-contested’ seats in multi-member wards, where representation is guaranteed due to a lack of competition.

“The result is councillors who have no proper mandate from the people they serve. This lack of democratic competition is bad for scrutiny, bad for local services and bad for democracy.

“Since moving to a proportional voting system [STV} for local elections in 2007, the scourge of uncontested seats has almost vanished in Scotland. Yet voters in England remain restrained by a one-person-takes-all system, where all votes not cast for the one winner go to waste.

“The result is a worrying number of ‘one party states’, safe seats and electoral wastelands. This is a disaster for faith in politics and, as we’ve seen, for competition too. Nowhere should be a ‘no go zone’ for parties.

“It’s time we brought the era of rotten boroughs to a close, by scrapping the broken First Past the Post system in England and ensuring there is always real competition. A more proportional system would end the crisis of local ‘one party states’ and open up our politics at last.”