The question for debate is, why have the people of Stoke on Trent stopped voting?
We start with the recent referendum. The turnout was 19%, that is 35,902 out of a possible 186,698. I find this statistic very alarming. Surely, it cannot be that people simply do not care, there has to be other reasons? This was a major decision, on how our City was to be governed. Did we want to continue with the Mayoral System, or did we want a change, and opt for the Leader and Cabinet System. I cannot believe that so few people bothered to vote. Bearing in mind the actual cost of this Referendum, was it really worth this amount of money being spent?
Lets go back to the elections on 1 May 2008, and break down the turnout for each ward:-
Abbey Green 26.4%
Bentilee and Townsend 27.1%
Berryhill and Hanley East 27.1%
Burslem North 26.2%
Burslem South 27.9%
Chell and Packmoor 27.9%
East Valley 26.3%
Hanley West and Shelton 23.9%
Hartshill and Penkhull 30.6%
Longton North 30.9%
Longton South 37.9%
Meir Park and Sandon 32.4%
Northwood and Birches Head 29.8%
Norton and Bradeley 31.3%
Stoke and Trent Vale 26.8%
Trentham and Hanford 38.1%
Weston and Meir North 35.2%
As you can see some areas are slightly better than others, but this turnout should be much better.
Under the Mayoral System, he has tried to get all the parties working together, mainly by forming the EMB. Though this is a good idea, as it is always better to work as one big team, but I do wonder if this has taken away the individual voices of political parties. The voters, may get the impression that because the parties appear to speak as one voice, how they vote won't really make a difference.
It is not the fact, that Councillors are not making an effort at election time, they work really hard, to get their policies across and get the election leaflets delivered. So, what goes wrong, once that leaflet comes through the door? Do people bother to read them, or do they go straight in the bin?
I think it would be interesting to find out, why these people choose not to vote. Are they simply not interested in local politics, or do they feel that they are no longer listened to, and no matter what they vote it won't make a difference? What worries me more, is that people are happy not to vote, therefore, leaving it upto others to make the decision for them.
If we look back over the years, Labour was always a strong hold across the City. So, what has gone wrong? At the moment, the Labour Party seems to be split across the City. There seems to be, from comments made on this site, some following West Midland Labour policies, and some not. The Mayor himself, I believe, follows West Midland Labour policies. Some Councillors are for the closure of schools, and the opening of Acadamies and some are totally against it. The same can be said for the closure of the care homes, and the privitisation of health care for the elderly. This does not show, a united front, and just confuses us the voters. We have Councillors and MP's giving support, but then they have to go and do the opposite. This is one reason why the voters are disgruntled. Yes, I know sometimes, they have to follow party policies, and their hands are tied, but why not be truthful in the first place, and tell us, there is not actually a lot they can do to change decisions.
The BNP stand as a united group, and all follow the same policies. Is this why they have become more and more popular? You ask a BNP voter, why they choose this party, and the answer is "well, they are the only ones actually listening to what we want, and taking action".
The Independents, are becoming more and more popular across the City, but I for one, am not really sure, what they stand for, and what policies they have. Are they really as independent as they say?
The Lib Dems and the Conservatives, were the parties, that used to be the next two most popular parties across the city, but for some reason, this is not the case now. The disgruntled Labour voters, used to opt for these parties, but I feel, that people are now choosing the BNP as the alternative.
We at PitsnPots want to know your opinions on why you think the people are no longer voting. We need to get to the bottom of this, and start changing people's attitude. I believe that your vote counts, and you should always use it. What worries me is, that if the parents of the City are not voting, this may rub off on our younger voters, and they may adopt the attitude of, well, it doesn't really matter, so I won't bother either.
It would be interesting to hear from a Councillor's point of view, why they think people are chosing not to vote?
Over to You.