Ep 38. Local voting rights for non-British citizens, Cllr Alex Bulat

With local elections taking place across large swathes of England (including London) and all of Scotland and Wales tomorrow (Thursday 5 May), some non-British citizens will be eligible to vote, but others will not be able to.

However, one councillor is on a mission to change this.

Councillor Alex Bulat, who represents the Abbey ward on Cambridgeshire County Council, put forward a motion to the authority's full council in March to extend local voting rights to all non-British citizens in local elections.

At the present time in England and Wales, European Union (EU) and Commonwealth citizens can vote in these, but other non-British nationals cannot, meaning someone from Germany and Canada can, but those from Moldova and the United States cannot.

In Scotland and Wales, all non-British citizens can vote in local elections and the motion aims to achieve this status in England and Wales as well.

With the motion being passed by Cambridgeshire County Council, this led to the authority’s Chief Executive, Stephen Moir, writing to the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office to ask for the Elections Bill (which was given Royal Assent on 28 April) to be amended.

In this episode of Public Sector Voices, we spoke to Councillor Alex Bulat about why equal voting rights in local elections is so important, she said:

“Those people [non-EU/Commonwealth nationals] will use the local roads, who use the parks, their children use the local schools, use all the services, various services that local authorities provide, yet, for some reason they don’t have a say in how those decisions are taking locally.

“I think the idea behind the motion and behind the idea of residents based local election voting rights in general is that you should have a say, at least at the local level at the very least, where you live and where you pay your taxes.

“When you get your council tax bill at home, no one asks you what nationality you are, no one says ‘oh you’re from the United States, you can’t vote, therefore you don’t have to pay this tax’.

“I do believe as a councillor, but also personally in this idea of no taxation without representation. At the very least what we can do is have some say at a local level and in many ways the local elections do involve decisions that affect us and see affecting us every day.”

Listen to the full episode of Voting rights for non-British citizens with Councillor Alex Bulat here.

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