Mayor slams referendum as ‘waste of time and money’

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HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond says the referendum that could see the voting system to elect MPs in this country transformed is “a waste of time and money” and will lead to more spoiled ballot papers.

The referendum will ask voters in Hartlepool if they want to replace the existing first-past-the-post system, which sees the candidate with the most votes in their constituency elected, with a new method known as the alternative vote (AV).

Stuart Drummond speaking during last nights event at the Belle Vue Centre.

Stuart Drummond speaking during last nights event at the Belle Vue Centre.

Under the AV system, voters rank candidates in their constituency in order of preference and anyone with more than 50 per cent of the vote is elected.

But Mayor Drummond believes the referendum is politically motivated to get the Liberal Democrat party more seats and said there are “a million and one other things” that the Government should be holding a referendum on at the moment in light of budget cuts.

Mayor Drummond said: “This is a waste of everyone’s time and money. If this is the Government’s top priority then that is quite sad.

“What worries me the most is the number of spoiled ballot papers because of people not fully understanding the system, especially if there are 10 candidates.

“It is too complicated and it will lead to a lot of confusion.

“You could end up with someone who would have finished fourth or fifth under the current system actually winning the election. How fair is that?

“We like to hold ourselves up as a pillar of democracy, so why change something that has worked pretty well?”

Residents will be able to cast their vote at polling stations across Hartlepool on Thursday, May 5.

The referendum will be held on the same day as local elections for Hartlepool Borough Council and parish council elections in Greatham and the Headland.

Voters will be asked to respond Yes or No to the following question: At present, the UK uses the first-past-the-post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons.

Should the alternative vote system be used instead?

The referendum is part of the coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Prime Minister David Cameron supports the current system, while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg favours a switch to AV.

It was also revealed last week that Hartlepool MP Iain Wright is one of 15 North-East Labour MPs to sign an open letter urging people to say no to AV because they “strongly support the principle of one person one vote”, as reported by the Mail.