Monday, 7 June 2010

Returning Officers Fees and Bonuses

Mark Pack has written an interesting article on the payments made to general election returning officers for their work. The issue arises because many returning officers are very well paid council chief executives who took their post knowing they would be likely to be returning officer. Should they therefore be paid up to £25,000 for their work on the election?

As ever, the facts are not as simple as the Telegraph might have us believe.

This is not payment for simply turning up at the count and reading out the results. Returning officers undertake a lot of work in the role and, in the case of a council chief executive, I would expect that this would be entirely in addition to their regular work. If they are too busy to do their day job because of election duties, then they certainly should not be getting the money.

It is also worth pointing out that many, if not most, returning officers do not take the whole payment themselves. In Cornwall, Council Chief Executive and Returning Officer Kevin Lavery is entitled to a payment of just under £20,000. But he is splitting this money with his team of officers who ensured that the elections ran smoothly - and quite right too.

The Telegraph is right on one thing however. Returning officers receive this money because they are in charge of a very large and potentially risky operation. If they fail to run this operation 100% effectively then it is they who should take the blame and they should certainly forfeit their payment as at least three of those who were in charge where problems occurred have done.

I'll leave the final word to John Turner, chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators (and a consultant who helped Cornwall Council sort out its elections department, who said: "The whole question of returning officer fees needs to be reviewed and brought up to date. It is just another aspect of elections where we need to ask whether it is fit for purpose and appropriate in the modern age."

No comments: