EDDC officer accuses East Devon Alliance chairman of “point scoring” over (second) postal vote cockup

Owl says: if the point IS scored, surely that speaks for itself! And anyone reading this supposedly “neutral” officer’s report is bound to wonder if it is, er, political!

“East Devon District Council’s monitoring officer has accused the chairman of the East Devon Alliance of political point-scoring after he raised concerns that the council’s scrutiny committee were not able to investigate a postal vote ‘cock-up’ ahead of the General Election.

Packs that were issued on May 25 contained voting slips that did not have an official security mark visible on the front of the ballot paper were issued to more than 9,000 voters in the constituency.

East Devon District Council who were responsible for printing the ballot papers but Mark Williams, the council’s returning officer, issued a statement reassuring voters that no postal votes had been affected as a result of the error.

The ‘cock-up’ has left Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, furious, and said that he would have more confidence in a village raffle than in Mr Williams running the forthcoming election and asked the council’s scrutiny committee at their last meeting in June to interrogate the reasons why 9,000 unmarked Parliamentary ballot papers were issued to postal voters.

But in response, he was told that the current legal assessment is that the remit of the Scrutiny Committee does not extend to Parliamentary elections, which is the remit of the Electoral Commission.

Mr Arnott queried this advice with the Electoral Commission, and says he was told that there is nothing laid down about where electoral matters can or can’t be discussed within the framework of local authority governance, and ultimately it is up to the Council and its operation of its scrutiny function as to whether any or all elections or electoral related matters are included in that scrutiny.

He has written to the council, asking them to take on board this advice and for scrutiny to investigate the matter, but in response, Henry Gordon Lennox, the Strategic Lead (Governance and Licensing) and Monitoring Officer of East Devon District Council, said that Mr Arnott had misinterpreted the advice he had been given and said that his query was ‘politically driven’.

The scrutiny committee have recommended to the council’s ruling Cabinet that the Chief Executive’s pending report on the election does includes explanation of the postal vote issue of May 25 that did not have an official security mark visible on the front of the ballot paper.

Mr Gordon Lennox in a statement said: “In my view, Mr Arnott has misinterpreted the advice from the Electoral Commission, who said that there were no legislative provisions dealing with the role of Scrutiny and elections and therefore it is down to the rules of each authority that will dictate whether or not there is a role for Scrutiny.

“Mr Arnott has taken this to say that the Council’s Scrutiny Committee should be reviewing the conduct of elections. However, what they aresaying, and it is my view too, is that effectively it is the Council’s Constitution and the Terms of Reference of the Scrutiny Committee that determine whether they can consider elections or electoral related matters.

“In general terms the role of Scrutiny is to review the actions relating to the various functions of the Council (in whatever form that takes). The role of Returning Officer is not part of the Council, save for the elections relating to towns and parishes and the district. It is for this reason that the Scrutiny Committee do not have the authority to consider the actions and conduct of the Acting Returning Officer / Deputy Returning Officer in the Parliamentary / County elections respectively.

“I think it important to also address the political side of this. I note that Mr Arnott says this is not political. However, Mr Arnott refers to the East Devon Alliance (EDA) report submitted to East Devon District Council following the May 2015 elections.

“Mr Arnott was at the time the Chair of the EDA and therefore a part of the Executive Committee who produced and submitted the report. At the County elections, Mr Arnott was an appointed election agent for the EDA.

“In the correspondence arising out of the postal vote issue during the Parliamentary election, Mr Arnott, when officially signing off his emails, referred to himself as the Chairman and Nominating Officer of the EDA.

“So my perception, notwithstanding what Mr Arnott says, is that his query is politically driven. To that end, the role of Scrutiny is supposed to be apolitical and I would be concerned that even if it were permissible for Scrutiny to be considering this matter, that the purpose for them so doing would be questionable.

“I have explained this matter in some detail in order to ensure that the correct context is understood and to give clarity on the issue. I would further confirm that, despite the above, it is my understanding that the Returning Officer will be presenting a report to Scrutiny at its next meeting on the key priorities he is working on, following what will now be the standard practice of a review process taking place after each election.”

The scrutiny committee have recommended to the council’s ruling Cabinet that the Chief Executive’s pending report on the election does includes explanation of the postal vote issue of May 25 that did not have an official security mark visible on the front of the ballot paper.

East Devon District Council’s Cabinet committee will consider the recommendation on Thursday, July 13.”

http://www.devonlive.com/east-devon-alliance-chairman-accused-of-politically-driven-query-over-postal-vote-scrutiny-request/story-30434940-detail/story.html

One thought on “EDDC officer accuses East Devon Alliance chairman of “point scoring” over (second) postal vote cockup

  1. Officers, i.e. Employees and non councillors are supposed to be apolitical.
    We have clearly and undoubtedly seen over recent years that Mark Williams is a died in the wool right winger, his responsibility for maintaining accurate voting numbers is laughable and, in my opinion, criminal.
    At present the only way we can legally challenge the status quo is by the vote , and we must always follow the rule of law until such time that revolution is accepted as a means of response!!

    Like

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