Wales to give 16-17 year olds right to vote at local elections

The Welsh Government has unveiled a new package of reforms to local government in Wales, which includes giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote at local elections.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill provides for the establishment of a new and reformed legislative framework for local government elections, democracy, performance and governance.

Proposals to change the law to make it possible for 16 and 17 year olds to vote at local council elections are part of the biggest change in the Welsh electoral system for 50 years – when the voting age was lowered to 18 during the 1970s.

The bill will also empower Wales’ 22 principal councils, giving them the tools and powers they have asked for to be ambitious and creative, and to work flexibly to deliver better services for people in Wales. This will support councils to work together across geographical and administrative boundaries, keeping accountability with local people.

Additionally, the bill will also introduce powers for each council to decide for itself which voting system to use – First Past the Post (FPTP) or Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is considered to be a system of ‘proportional representation’. There could also be the piloting of reforms to local government elections after 2022, such as holding elections on different days and having polling stations in different places

Julie James, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, said: “We believe in strong local government. We want it to thrive, we want the people of Wales to feel well-represented and supported by modern public services, and we want the relationship between local government and the Welsh Government to be mature and focused on our shared agenda – delivering better public services for everyone, helping people who need support, when and where they need it most.

“This bill is introduced at a time when austerity continues, and relationships and technology are changing the way public services interact with each other, and with the communities they serve. So 20 years on from devolution, this is a significant Local Government Bill which reflects the journey of devolution and will deliver a major package of reforms, including local government electoral reform. It aims to provide local government with new ways to support and serve their communities in these challenging times, while reinvigorating local democracy here in Wales.”