COUNCILLORS in an East Lancs borough have scrapped an idea to hold whole-council elections once every four years following low levels of public feedback.

But Conservatives in Rossendale still believe such a change would bring benefits even though the idea was voted down at a full council meeting.

The majority felt regular kept residents and councillors in touch with each other and made for stability, with new councillors learning from experienced members.

Labour's Cllr Steve Hughes said a mix of town council and county elections were on the horizon soon, meaning the move to a simpler, four-year schedule would be difficult.

He told the meeting the prospect of two consecutive years of elections followed by another two consecutive years of no elections was not ideal.

He said: “On balance, we think keeping the current system would be best. The Rossendale local boundary review will lead to all-out elections in 2024 with some voters receiving a ballot paper with up to four votes.

"There will also be a Police & Crime Commissioner election, voters in Whitworth could have three ballot papers and up to six votes, and Lancashire County Council elections will be coming too.

“I don’t buy the argument that moving to a four-year cycle would make things easier for residents. People are used to voting regularly in elections. Public feedback suggested residents have higher concerns than the timing of elections.”

Tory group leader Cllr David Foxcroft said: “The report says how finely-balanced the arguments are. We still believe all-out elections are the way forward. All-out elections would give a clear agenda and allow the council to get on with its work.

“I accept the public feedback was small but had the consultation gone out earlier, the feedback might have been different. There were changes and delays with the consultation. We still support change."

And fellow Tory Cllr Laura Beth Thompson added: “There is a lot of confusion about the election system now, with areas and times. I think the lack of public engagement in consultation was because of a lack of understanding about what the consultation was actually about and how elections work. Less than 40 per cent of voters voted at the last election. That suggests change is needed. All-out elections would encourage people to vote. ”

Community First's Cllr Alan Neal said: “We tried this system once before in 1990 but it did not work. There was a decision to go back to the phased rota of elections with one-third of councillors standing at each election. I have been faced with this question before and I don’t think it would work.

“But my main concern is democracy is important. We need to educate young people about why democracy is so important. My children have always voted because they realise what has happened in the past, in history.”

Council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes said: “We wanted to hear the views of Rossendale people. The small number of people who responded was disappointing. But it was extensively promoted.

“There are pros-and-cons to both systems. Although only about one-third of people vote in the current system, which is lower than 40 per cent,  they do tend to vote every year and like to vote. The proposed all-out system had some weaknesses too. ”

But she added: “Increasingly, the whole system is not working for residents. We need fundamental reform and real change for local government. Smaller councils are facing constant pressures.”