“Chief exec suspended over election failures leaves council by mutual consent”

Amongst other things, our CEO “misplaced” 6,000 voters by using inadequate means of registering them and had to explain himself (not terribly well in Owl’s opinion) to a Parliamentary committee:

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

“A chief executive who was suspended over failures in the running of the 2017 general election process has left by mutual consent.

John Sellgren was suspended from his post at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council in November 2017 after a review by Andrew Scallon, of the Association of Electoral Administrators, which found that more than 500 postal voters were disenfranchised, and close to 1,000 potential electors not included on the register.

A statement from the council on Sellgren’s departure said: “We would like to place on record our thanks for John’s efforts during his seven years with us. The council recently had its first all-out elections and the new administration has an ambitious manifesto and many significant projects to deliver in the years ahead.

“With this in mind the authority will now consider what management leadership arrangements to put in place to support this programme.”

Sellgren said: “I have enjoyed my time at Newcastle and send my best wishes to the dedicated team of staff and partners with whom it has been a pleasure to have worked.”

The council said it wanted to point out that there had been no additional payments made to Mr Sellgren.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly held the Newcastle-under-Lyme seat by 30 votes with 21,124 to his Conservative rival’s 21,094.

The Scallon report was commissioned shortly after the election when claims were made that some students at Keele University and postal voters were unable to vote despite following the correct procedures.
Some said they were turned away from polling stations despite having polling cards with them, and others who said they had registered to vote by the deadline were turned away for not having provided extra information required.

Scallon’s report said: “Human error and judgement and a lack of knowledge were responsible for the things that went wrong and led to the disenfranchisement of a significant number of people, raising questions about the mandate of the candidate declared elected as Newcastle-under-Lyme’s member of Parliament.”

He noted inadequate performance by Mr Sellgren (as acting returning officer/electoral registration officer) and consultants, worsened by a lack of experience among elections office staff and over-reliance on a software system, which was not properly managed.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36393%3Achief-exec-suspended-over-election-failures-leaves-council-by-mutual-consent&catid=59&Itemid=27

“Blundering council worker mows a wildlife meadow at [EDDC HQ] centre of Sir David Attenborough’s Big Butterfly Count”

Owl says: Just one question: many senior officers occupy rooms facing the wildflower meadow. Did not one of them stop and wonder what the man was doing?

Red-faced council bosses have apologised after a blundering worker mowed flat a wildflower meadow being monitored for David Attenborough’s Big Butterfly Count.

East Devon District Council said sorry after an employee on a sit-on mower turned the valued site into a desert at The Knowle in Sidmouth.

The worker was tasked with cutting a pathway from the car parks for people to walk down to the town. Instead he cut the whole nine acres. …”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6011839/Blundering-council-worker-flattens-Big-Butterfly-Count-meadow.html

“Public sector bosses are on a ‘gilded staircase’ of huge pay rises they do not deserve, MPs warn”

“Public sector bosses are on a “gilded staircase” of huge pay rises they do not deserve, the chair of the public accounts committee has warned.

Labour MP Meg Hillier has written a damning statement about the “lack of oversight” that allows parts of the public sector to inflate its executives’ salaries – at the same time as cutting staff.

She highlighted the high pay received by some heads of academy schools, which her committee has been investigating.

“The lack of oversight is worrying,” Ms Hillier said in her annual report, adding: “The rapid expansion of academies and free schools raises questions about oversight of how these new schools are managed and how they are spending their budgets. …”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/06/29/public-sector-bosses-gilded-staircase-huge-pay-rises-do-not/

CEO and Head of Audit suspended after irregularities in voting at General Election

Here in East Devon there were numerous mistakes made by our election officers but, so far, they have avoided examination or censure.

Nothing will change till electoral officers have to legally submit budgets of exactly how much money they spent (or did not spend), how much extra they were paid to do the job (average £10-20,000 per election, some got much more) AND they come under the Freedom of Information spotlight (they are currently exempted).

“Almost 1,500 voters were unable to take part in a general election contest which was won by just 30 votes, an independent inquiry has concluded.

Two senior officials in Newcastle-under-Lyme were suspended today following damning investigation into the June 8 election.

Newcastle Borough Council chief executive John Sellgren and Elizabeth Dodd, head of audit and elections, have been criticised for a number of issues by the Association of Electoral Administrators.

It found 500 postal voters were disenfranchised, nearly 1,000 potential electors were not included on the voting register and two people were able to vote who were not eligible to.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly held off a charge from Tory Owen Meredith to hold Newcastle-under-Lyme with a reduced majority.

The election cannot be re-run because complaints about the running of a poll must be made within 21 days.

But the probe concluded the result could have been different if the wrongly excluded voters had been allowed to take part.

The investigators it was ‘impossible not to question the result’ and detailed a ‘complex picture of administrative mistakes around registration and postal voting processes’.

There was an ‘inadequate performance by inexperienced and under-resourced elections office staff’, the report found.

Mr Farrelly described the election arrangements as a ‘shambles’ in the aftermath of the poll.

Mr Meredith said today: ‘It is vital lessons are learnt from this experience and that the recommendations of the report are implemented in full.
‘Urgent action must be taken by Newcastle Borough Council to ensure the credibility of upcoming council by-elections in December and the all-out elections in May.

‘Voters will be rightly horrified by the details of the report’s findings and trust in the democratic process in Newcastle-under-Lyme has been badly undermined. Urgent action is needed to restore that trust.

‘Voters have been truly let down by the Council officers and leadership and those involved must consider their positions.’

Council leader Elizabeth Shenton, said: ‘I sincerely apologise on behalf of the council for that situation but we can’t turn the clock back and right any wrong that occurred at that time.’

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: ‘Good planning and open communication are vital to ensure voters can receive the quality of service they deserve.

‘Both our guidance and this independent report recognise these factors.
‘We will now consider this report’s findings as part of our assessment of how Returning Officers performed at June’s election.

‘The Commission will continue to support and challenge the performance of the electoral services department at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to ensure forthcoming elections are well-run.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5125083/1-500-people-STOPPED-taking-election.html

EDDC has other ways of raising cash … but not votes

Owl says: shame they couldn’t put the same amount of effort into getting voters to register. CEO Williams said it was much too dangerous to go around the dark, rural roads in East Devon seeking them out.

Owl hopes the officers tasked with weeding out these miscreants have had good martial arts training for dealing with those elderly widows, widowers and single mums!

And just as well officer time is never costec when accounting for how such an exercise!

Council Tax paying resis who wrongly claim they live alone and get a council tax discount are being targeted in East Devon. Checks are beginning this month to ensure that the 21,000 East Devon householders who currently claim a 25% discount for living alone are still entitled to it.

Councillor Ian Thomas, portfolio holder for finance, said “anyone genuinely claiming a reduction should not be concerned. However, if you are found to be deliberately misleading the council, you could face a penalty of £70, as well as having to repay the discount,” he added.”

[Source: BBC Devon]

Plymouth postal votes fiasco gets fierce criticism; EDDC’s SECOND postal vote fiasco still awaiting scrutiny

Our fiasco here:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/07/17/eddc-second-postal-votes-fiasco-will-be-scrutinised/

Plymouth fiasco here:

Plymouth City Council has received a report into electoral issues that led to problems at the last general election.

Between 150 and 200 people were unable to vote, and about 2,000 postal ballots were not sent out.

An independent report headed by Dr Dave Smith, the former chief executive of Sunderland City Council, looked into all aspects of the way the election was managed.

He will present it to full council on 25 September.

The council said his recommendations included telling it to:

Act swiftly to permanently recruit enough suitably experienced electoral registration staff to ensure the elections team is up to recommended staffing levels

In the meantime, ensure there are enough interim staff with sufficient operational experience to manage the team, build capacity and ensure focus

Make sure sufficient resources and properly documented systems, procedures and processes are put in place to ensure a successful election canvass and prepare for local elections in 2018 and plan for a future general election

Develop a more detailed communications plan with key stakeholders to ensure effective election communications especially when unusual situations arise

Carry out an independent review in January 2018 to ensure the council is suitably prepared for elections in May 2018″

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-41161495