Council chiefs (including ours) make LOTS of extra money out of elections

We have never known how much EDDC’s CEO Mark Williams has received, or how he has spent his budgets. It seems that there is no barrier to telling us.

Over to you Mr Ingham…. transparency … remember?

A council chief has received nearly £150,000 in four years for being a returning officer on top of his salary, prompting calls for a review of how public officials are paid to oversee elections.

Tom Riordan, Leeds city council’s chief executive, has been paid £147,921.66 in fees since 2015 on top of his £182,085 salary, even though much of the election work was carried out during his normal office hours.

For this month’s general election he is entitled to a further £28,424, making the total fees almost a year’s salary since the 2015 general election.

The council defended the payments and said Riordan could have received even more had he not passed on to his deputies £12,754.33 for this year’s European election.

Council bosses across the country have benefited from a glut of polls in recent years, including three general elections, the EU referendum and the European election. Riordan does not receive a fee for local elections, though many chief executives do.

At Sunderland city council, which traditionally wins the race to declare the first general election result, chiefs have received a total of £140,746 since 2015. The payments, received by four holders of the post, include fees for two police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections and local elections as well as the national and European polls.

The current Sunderland chief executive, Patrick Melia, who has a salary of £180,000, received an extra £50,168 this year for local elections, a PCC vote and the European poll. He stands to get a further £10,008 for next week’s election.

Glasgow city council said Annemarie O’Donnell, its chief executive, had received £122,444.42 since 2015. She is entitled to £21,267 for next week. Her annual salary is £176,855.

O’Donnell’s total, which included a Scottish parliamentary election in 2016, was less than she was entitled to. She declined a fee for the last round of local council elections and an unspecified share of her fees was passed on to staff, charities and community groups.

According to parliamentary fee orders governing payments for returning officers, Manchester city council’s chief executive has been entitled to £94,578 for European and national polls since 2015, with £18,691 due for next week.

The council was unable to confirm whether the two officers who have held the chief executive position had received their full entitlement. Joanne Roney, who has held the role since 2017, has a salary of £205,671.

Newcastle city council confirmed that its chief executive, Pat Ritchie, had received £68,216 in fees on top of her salary, currently £183,891, since 2015. She does not receive payments for local elections but will receive £8,820 for the general election.

The payments were described as “totally unsustainable” by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Cat Smith, who was Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister before parliament was dissolved, has called for a government review into the fee system.

Riordan is thought to be the best-paid returning officer in the country. Leeds is the second-largest local authority area. The largest, Birmingham, operates a pay policy that precludes chiefs from receiving returning officer fees. The entitlement is distributed to less senior staff carrying out election work.

The maximum payments available to returning officers — who are nearly always council chief executives — for national, European and crime commissioner polls are set in parliamentary statutory orders, with the sums calculated according to electorate size.

Most payments are the responsibility of the Cabinet Office, but local authorities take care of council election fees.

In January last year the Cabinet Office said the fees would be part of a wider review into election funding, which has yet to be concluded.

Leeds city council said: “Elections require those involved to work most evenings, weekends and bank holidays for a prolonged period.”

Source: Sunday Times (paywall)

Poor people to be disenfranchised – and EDDC was the trailblazer!

Story here:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/general-election-roll-conservatives-boris-johnson-labour-cabinet-office-register-a9179716.html

EDDC Electoral officer and CEO used “light touch” as the reason/excuse when he “lost” 6,000+ voters from the electoral roll in 2014 (that and not wanting his canvassers out in the dark were just two of his reasons at the time):

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/13/highlights-of-mr-williams-audio-transcript-of-evidence-to-the-parliamentary-select-committee-on-voter-engagement/

At that time it was also the poorer and more itinerant renters who were not contacted or followed up.

The Tories, having realised that poorer and rent-trapped people were more likely not to register to vote, jumped at the chance to do their best to ensure they never reach the electoral roll again.

Nice one Boris – bet you’ve made Mr Williams very proud! Maybe he will even get a gong for it like Swire got for cosying up to Cameron!

East Devon’s population explodes

In 2017, East Devon’s CEO and Electoral officer “lost” around 6,000 voters:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/05/31/those-missing-6000-voters-electors-jump-from-96000-to-113000-plus/

and, when he had to explain it and put some effort into finding them, the population jumped from 96,000 to more than 113,000.

Now, in 2019, East Devon’s population is said to be 144,317!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Devon

30,000 plus people added in just 2 years!

Wonder if the population increase is reflected in the electoral roll?

“General elections – the role of the Acting Returning Officer”

Given that our Acting Returning Officer (CEO Matk Williams) is STILL making multiple mistakes after many years in the job (including being summinsed by a Parliamentary Committee to explain some of his more controversial actions)

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/14/official-transcript-of-eddc-ceo-evidence-to-parliamentary-committee-on-voter-engagement/

he might appreciate this refresher and he can”t then plead ignorance:

“Ben Standing sets out some of the steps Acting Returning Officers should be taking now, with another general election seemingly around the corner.

If the news is anything to go by, we are likely to have our third UK Parliamentary Election in five years soon. This is despite the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 which was intended to take the politics out of calling elections.

If an election is called, it will be against a backdrop of a charged political climate and the recent creation of a new and potentially major political party (the Brexit Party).

From the perspective of an Acting Returning Officer the combination of inexperienced candidates and a charged political climate heightens the risk of something unexpected happening and of challenges being made against the way the vote has been managed.

Although mistakes do happen and can usually be rectified, the reputational damage that can flow from even simple errors can be significant. A mistake with the allocation of block votes led to 41,939 votes being counted in a small constituency in England that only had 7,000 registered voters and where only 2,477 ballot papers had been issued. The mistake led to the formation of a residents’ campaign group, a court supervised recount and costly High Court proceedings.

Now is an opportune moment for Acting Returning Officers to review their election plans, to ensure that they meet the relevant legal requirements and that contingency arrangements are in place to respond to a snap election.

The role of an Acting Returning Officer is to ensure that the election is administered effectively. It should be remembered that Acting Returning Officers can appoint one or more persons to discharge any of their functions; however they cannot delegate responsibility for delivering the election.

So what should Acting Returning Officers be doing? In theory, as electoral law hasn’t changed, Acting Returning Officers should be doing exactly the same as they have in relation to previous elections. However in practice there are a number of steps which may assist Acting Returning Officers. These include:

considering the candidate registration process. There may be an increase in inexperienced candidates (both due to candidates being fielded by the Brexit Party and the high profile loss of the Conservative whip for over 20 current MPs). Have candidates followed the correct procedure? Additional resources may be required to assist candidates with the registration process.

considering how the current procedure would cope with a significant increase in turnout. For example is there sufficient capacity in the polling stations, have sufficient staff been trained in order to ensure that votes are verified and counted in a reasonable timeframe (with the verification having taken place before 2 am). Considering this at an early stage is essential, as adjusting plans later is often more difficult.

reviewing the voter registration process. If an election is called, it is likely to be seen, at least in part, as a vote on how (and if) we should leave the European Union. It is possible that there could be a surge in the registration of new voters. Sufficient staff need to be trained and available to processes applications. In my experience, just because the public has been reminded to register to vote a number of months doesn’t mean that a significant proportion won’t try to do so within a few days of the deadline. Councils must be able to deal with any last minute registrations.

training polling station staff to manage difficult situations. Whether or not we leave the European Union is an emotive issue and polling station staff will need to know what to do in the case incidents in and outside the polling station. This could include being aware of how the police should be alerted if necessary (often local police forces will provide a dedicated number that polling station staff can use).

reminding staff how to deal with media. There is undoubtedly going to be significant media interest and staff will need to be reminded of what they can and cannot say.

staff and the public should also be reminded of the significant number of electoral offences. The integrity of the count is paramount.

a person may act as a proxy for any number of close relatives, but a person may not have more than one proxy at a time. The proxy must be registered in accordance with the relevant deadlines, but contingency plans should be put in place ahead of time to deal with any emergency proxies required.

ballot papers must by law be printed in accordance with the directions for printing in the appendix to the relevant election rules. It is strongly advisable that as a minimum, enough ballot papers to meet a 100% turnout should be printed (I have encountered a situation where a higher than average turnout almost left the local authority with insufficient ballot papers – a situation that no Acting Returning Officer wants to find themselves in!).

although polling stations close at 10pm, any voter in a queue at their polling station at 10pm may still apply for a ballot paper. Efficient planning should ensure that queues should not cause significant delays, however if it is anticipated that queue management may be an issue prior arrangements should be agreed with the local police.

Ultimately Acting Returning Officers need to ensure that they fully understand the legislative framework concerning the conduct of the election, and have an effective management procedure in place, so that they are able to respond to any unforeseen or unusual situations.

Acting Returning Officers who, without reasonable cause, are guilty of any act or omission in breach of their official duties are liable on summary conviction to an unlimited fine. Accordingly it is important that acting returning officers have the correct insurance cover.

https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/governance/314-governance-a-risk-articles/41542-general-elections-the-role-of-the-acting-returning-officer

Yet another electoral roll mess up

From a correspondent:

As both my kids will be at university this autumn, they decided to apply for postal votes. I downloaded the application form but the return address on it is still The Knowle at Sidmouth. Whilst it may be an oversight on EDDC’s part, the cynic in me wonders if this is perhaps a cunning ploy to disenfranchise those in my daughters’ positions who are studying out of area, but still want a say in what happens.

As it is, I have saved the reply paid envelope from the application which has the Honition address on it and will use that instead. East Devon will pay for it, rather than me, and hopefully the form will arrive safely.

EDDC moved its HQ in February 2019. It seems our Electoral Officer (CEO Mark Williams, for an extra fee, of course) didn’t update the registration website – perhaps too busy having unminuted meetings with developers …

We must hope that mail is still being redirected and that ALL of it arrives at its new address …

The East Devon electoral roll – is it up-to-date and fit for purpose this time round?

Householders are currently receiving a form from EDDC about checking that the household occupants are registered to vote.

It comes with a prepaid envelope and an alternative option to complete online. If you choose the latter, one can end up being told the information has already been supplied. The wording implies the visit to the website may have been unnecessary.

If it WAS unnecessary then itis a waste of time and money – or perhaps the wording could be more appropriate if it WAS necessary?

One wonders about the scale of this and whether it really is necessary to ensure inclusion on the electoral roll? Perhaps CEO Mark Williams’ (Election Officer, for an extra fee and staff budget) ought perhaps to be better targeting – making extra sure he doesn’t “lose” another 6,000 or more voters like he did in the next-to-last general election.

Home visits to addresses in ever-spreading Cranbrook might be a good idea along with some of the other large new estates that have sprung up all over East Devon since the last election (there must be hundreds of new households). How many of those, in the current political climate, might prefer a candidate other than incumbent Tory Swire and where a few hundred votes mught be crucial?

And he doesn’t have the excuse of it being too dark at night for his canvassers to go out … like he said when he tried to explain to Parliament why telephone contact (sometimes to people newly arrived in the area where their telephone numbers would not usually be known, or these days where they are likely to have only mobile phones) was more preferablethan canvassing

Which you can read about here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/13/highlights-of-mr-williams-audio-transcript-of-evidence-to-the-parliamentary-select-committee-on-voter-engagement/

Scrutiny definitely needed this time around … where the stakes are so very high.