Council consults on elections cycle

11 September 2015

Harrogate Borough Council is to consult with residents on how often they should vote for local councillors.

The six week consultation begins today (Friday 11 September) and runs until Thursday 22 October 2015.  It asks residents’ opinion as to whether the council should change to electing the whole council every four years, starting in May 2018, or if it should continue with elections ‘by thirds’.

  • Harrogate Borough Council currently has 54 councillors representing 35 wards across the district.
  • Up to two councillors in each urban ward and one in each rural ward.  They are elected for a four year term. 

The system of electing by thirds means that for three years a third of the council’s seats are up for election. In the fourth year there is no election to Harrogate Borough Council.

Under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, the council has the power to change its electoral arrangements to ‘whole council elections’, meaning that all seats on the council would be elected at the same time, once every four years.

At a meeting of Harrogate Borough Council on Thursday 10 September 2015 councillors decided to consult with the local electorate to see which system people prefer.

Councillors were informed that there are arguments in favour of both systems.  For keeping the ‘elections by third’ electoral system, these include:

  • there is a regular turnover of new council members
  • decisions are being made every year rather than every four years which means voters are able to react sooner to local circumstances, which provides more immediate political accountability, and
  • having elections three out of every four  years encourages people to vote and to get into the habit of voting

Some of the arguments in favour of ‘whole council elections’ are:

  • when a council has a four year mandate it can adopt a long term strategic approach to policy and decision making with less focus on yearly election campaigning
  • the results from whole council elections are simpler and more easily understood by voters.  This may increase turnout at local elections, and
  • holding whole council elections once every four years, rather than smaller elections three out of every four years, is cheaper and is less disruptive for public buildings used as polling stations

A move to whole council elections would have an impact on parish councils in the district.  If Harrogate Borough Council chose to change to whole council elections, the Local Government and Public Involvement Act enables the council to alter the years of the ordinary elections of towns and parishes to coincide with those elections.

From today, residents can find out more about the two electoral cycle options and give their views on the council’s website at

Paper copies of the consultation material are also available from the council’s Crescent Garden offices in Harrogate. Local residents can also give their views by writing to Emma McIntosh, Engagement Officer, Harrogate Borough Council, Council Offices, Crescent Gardens, Harrogate, HG1 2SG.


In addition, the 850 members of the public who make up the Harrogate District Panel and all of the district’s parish councils will also be consulted.

Cllr Richard Cooper, the Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said:

Both ‘elections by thirds’ and ‘whole council elections’ have their merits, but we really do need to know what people think would be the best option as they are the ones who will be coming out to vote in these elections.

With this in mind, I would urge as many people as possible to take part in this consultation – go online, write to us, talk to your district or parish councillor about your views, but make sure you have your say so that the council knows what you want when we discuss this again in November and decide what the cycle of elections for Harrogate Borough Council should be in the future.

The consultation on Harrogate Borough Council’s election cycle closes at 12 noon on Thursday 22 October 2015.  After this date the council will consider the results of the consultation and vote on whether to change the electoral cycle at an extraordinary general meeting in November 2015.


Harrogate Borough Council is currently in year two of its ‘elections by thirds’

  • In May this year, elections took place for seats in the following council wards: Bilton, Granby, Harlow Moor, High Harrogate, Hookstone, Knaresborough East, Knaresborough King James, Knaresborough Scriven Park, Low Harrogate, New Park, Pannal, Ripon Minister, Ripon Moorside, Ripon Spa, Rossett, Saltergate, Starbeck, Stray and Woodfield.
  • In 2016 the following seats are up for election: Bishop Monkton, Boroughbridge, Claro, Killinghall, Kirby Malzeard, Lower Nidderdale, Marston Moor, Mashamshire, Newby, Nidd Valley, Ouseburn, Pateley Bridge, Ribston, Spofforth with Lower Wharfdale, Washburn and Wathvale.

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