EDDC CEO Written Evidence to Parliament yesterday: his best work comes from “ripping up the rule book”

but only in East Devon, not in South Somerset!

Written evidence submitted by Mark Williams,
Chief Executive for East Devon District Council (VUk 158)

 Financing – The Council’s revenue budget is broadly funded 24% from the Council Tax, 25% from Government Grants and 51% from fees, charges & other income. As a matter of record, Government funding does not cover all the legal duties imposed on the Council and its officers.

 Impact of ‘Systems Thinking’ – Our greatest performance successes have come from ‘ripping up the rule book’ and departing from the stipulations of the Audit Commission (as was) under Comprehensive Performance Assessment/Comprehensive Area Assessment, or the DWP in terms of front/back office split for benefits processing. We have used ‘systems thinking’ derived from the Vanguard approach. Arguably the Electoral Commission is akin to the Audit Commission in the increasingly prescriptive nature of its ‘guidance’.

 Practical Experience – House to House canvassing is expensive and ineffective in a rural area, especially as it is carried out in late Oct/Nov. Assuming the property can be accessed, people don’t tend to answer their doors after dark and also resent being ‘harassed’ at the weekend. Is it fair to expose my staff to (real – not the risk of) verbal abuse and physical assault? How much should one spend chasing those who won’t vote?

 Dec 2013 Electoral Register – We achieved a 95% registration rate without house to house canvassing. This was secured by using the post, e-mail, phone calling and data matching of internal data sets.


 Voter Confusion – Why is it a duty to register but only a right to vote?

 Voter Alienation – Those who understand the system resent the existence of the Open Register and the fact that it is on general sale. As regards the Full Register they don’t necessarily trust credit reference agencies or registered politicial parties/individual candidates with their data. Fears of abuse/misuse etc.

 Voter Turnout – What is a realistic target for turnout?

Scottish Referendum 2014 European Elections 2014

84.6% 34.2% 41.1% 65.1% 72.6%

Current/Future State

 Making a success of IER – I am sure I am not the only ERO who has concerns about the transitional impact of IER and the practical implementation difficulties of administering the new system. A particular concern is the capacity/ability of our software supplier to make timely changes. We have provided all the information required of us by the Electoral Commission.

 Target No. Of Voters – Based on the 2011 Census the likely number of eligible voters is approximately 107,000 for the EDDC administrative area. As at the 7th October we had captured 100,735 registered electors (approx 94%).

 Budgetary Overspend – I have confirmed to my manager that she has an ‘open’ budget this year in order to ensure that we have enough staff resource to make a success of the new IER.

 House Canvass – We have recruited canvassers and will be carrying out a house to house canvass with the target objective that every occupied house in the EDDC area will have been visited. Out of a total 66,586 properties:

Returns = 56,936
Second Homes = 2,479
Empty Props = 1,522 Outstanding Properties = 5,649

7 October 2014