Tuesday, 14 December 2010

What Is Alternative Voting?

Evolution NOW with Deborah Grayson (Centre) 

Evolution NOW met with Deborah Grayson (pictured), a local event organiser for the YES! to fairer votes campaign, to find out how to AV will create a TRUE DEMOCRACY.

Democracy means the ability to vote for your leader – but what about the way we vote?

The current voting system in place is a system called First-Past-The-Post (FPTP). This system is based on say three candidates, and you having to vote for one of them. Once these votes are collated, the winner is determined by the first to achieve a measly 30% of the votes.

Not only is this a poor representation of the turnout of those who voted, but as an individual, maybe the person you voted for isn’t exactly your first choice. Suppose for example, you like only one or two of that party’s manifesto pledges but can appreciate the views of the other parties on the same issue?

Much like the attitudes and views of some of our elected politicians at present, FPTP is obsolete, tired and not representative of what we all think.

Alternative Voting (AV) is a system that seems foreign to many, when in actual fact it is being used all around us:

  • The recent Labour leadership race used it.
  • Mayor of London Elections uses it.
  • Presidential Elections in Universities use it.
  • Australia’s Prime Minister was elected using this very system.

AV is simply a multiple choice ballot. Instead of an “x”, you get to chose who your favourite is out of say five candidates. Then listing from 1 to 5 (1 being the highest, 5 the lowest) you select who you would like to win. The percentage needed to be declared the winner on such a type of ballot is 50%.

This means the voting would embrace a wider audience, encompass more of the community if you will and reduce the margin of winning via tactical voting dramatically. It makes your vote a more valuable commodity to the person trying to obtain it, as literally every vote would count towards reaching the 50% target.

But naturally, there are ministers in parliament who are opposed to this voting system and are already banding together to make sure that the political system remains in the dark ages with archaic ideologies and an equally archaic voting system.

With the margin of victory so high, if there is no outright winner, the person with the lowest amount of votes is removed and the ballot is sent out again for you to vote for the remaining participants until somebody achieves the 50% needed to be declared the victor.

Think like how you vote off participants on the x-factor but on a much quicker scale. As a matter of fact...

...Even when voting for the X-factor, you’re using the Alternative Vote system.

To find out how you can say YES to fairer votes, attend one of the road-shows in your local area or be an ambassador and set up one of your very own.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Big Society? Big Deal?

The very mention of the words sounds like the latest reality TV show, but in actual fact – you may not be too far from the truth.

What does the phrase “big society” mean?

For Councillor Saima Mahmud, cabinet member for children and young people(pictured right) and Officer James Gould – Youth consultation & participation, Big Society means financial straits.

London Boroughs currently receive nearly £3 Billion in grants for current Youth initiatives and schemes. With the cutbacks proposed, all of this funding will be withdrawn and consolidated into one grant called the “Early Intervention” grant.

It is from this one grant, the council must try to fund ALL existing projects.

James further dispelled the old stereotype that young people just don’t care.

He went on to tell us that although the police are bringing back stop and search within the borough, the local police have been working with local youth to create methods of carrying out these searches that will be more appropriate.

The biggest loss suffered with the governments’ cutbacks was the Building Schools for Future programme – which would have seen 19 of the boroughs most dilapidated schools modernised.

The borough has seen a very big interest in the free schools initiative announced by the government, with no less than 7 community groups registering their interest to open one of their own.

A Free school only has to pledge to teach the core subjects of English, maths and science – the rest of the curriculum they teach is entirely up to them. Once it has been confirmed, the school will be placed in either under used council buildings or buildings up for disposal.

They are given these buildings for FREE and under a 125 year lease!

The council have several of these buildings available but as you can imagine – these buildings may be available but they can also be sold for a sizeable profit…

In Waltham Forest, there are 10,000+ homes and a waiting list of 16,000+ people. With the coalition’s proposal to move tenants from their homes after 5 years and more people moving into the borough than out – overcrowding is more of an issue than ever.

What does this mean for young people leaving home at ever younger ages for a variety of reasons? Where do they fall on the waiting list?

HOWEVER, there are proposals to reprise the opening of schools during the summer holidays to assist adult learning, filmmaker classes and even learning how to DJ. With a turnout of over 1,300 local residents the scheme is just a small example of Waltham Forest Council’s determination to provide a silver lining.

Want to do more for YOUR borough? Contact your local council and find out how!

Whose Big Society Is It Anyway?

On December 1st, I had the honour of accompanying Evolution Now to a meeting at Waltham Forest Town Hall to meet with Councilor Saima Mahmud and Youth Consultation & Participant Officer James Gould. The objective, to get a better understanding of local politics and see if they can shed some light on this ‘Big Society’ idea the government keep talking about.

The building had the kind of mundane atmosphere I have come to expect from most government buildings but on being introduced to Councilor Mahmud and Mr.Gould, my impression immediately changed. They had very pleasant demeanour and strangely enough the room they led seemed to be the only place in that building to have natural light.

Both Saima and James started out by telling us about their roles and what they were responsible for and some of the duties they each had to carry out on a daily basis. It was clear from the way they spoke about their work that they take their roles very seriously and are very passionate about making positive changes in the lives of people within the local community.

The only problem here is that they have limited funding and resources to work with which means their work has to be targeted to whatever groups of people are deemed most vulnerable. Here lies the reason for my frustration with the system of government. Yes there are some great individuals with integrity and genuine desire to make changes working within the government, but a system that is built on hierarchy will only serve to create as much problems as it solves hence prolonging the illusion that we need a government at all!

I can’t see how targeted support is ever going to work as all that will happen is that as the government the focuses its attention on one group, more and more vulnerable groups will appear.

This is one of the reasons I started my campaign 'I Refuse To Vote Until Politicians are Paid Minimum wage'.

Everybody needs support in some form or the other and it’s the government’s job to figure out how to manage that with the resources we have available. What we currently have is a government telling us what they are prepared to give and we, the people they are supposed to serve, have to conform to their rules.

This leads me into the other main part of the conversation, planned government cuts and this ‘Big Society’ the new government keeps talking about. Funnily enough, they were as enlightened as we were when it came to the ‘Big Society’ in that nobody really seems to know what’s going on. All that’s confirmed is that there will be cuts and local governments have to figure out to carry out all the work they have been doing with less budget.

It seems central government is expecting the voluntary sector and local communities to handle most of the work they used to do, which I think is great personally. People should be more empowered and government less relevant but the transition will not be an easy one for most to make and I’m not sure how prepared this government is to deal with that. I think Evolution Now can and will play a big part in waking people up to their power and responsibility to create the future they deserve.

On a brighter note, it’s good to have people like Councilor Mahmud and James Gould working on behalf of local communities. I know it would be virtually impossible for everybody in the local community to be happy with the work they do, but I am convinced that they do all they can to serve the community within the constraints set by central government.

All in all, this meeting has further fuelled my desire to see politicians on minimum wage!


Would YOU like to accompany Evolution NOW on their next big meeting and write about your experience?

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