Is the end in sight for Returning Officer bonuses?

I’ve written often enough before about the problems with the “bonus” payments that Returning Officers receive for doing their job at election time. One problem is that they receive the bonuses in full even if they have messed up dreadfully, though that is now changing. The other is that the grounds for having the bonuses in the first place are pretty thin:

The role of being Returning Officer goes with having a job – typically council chief executive –  that is usually well paid to begin with (often six figure salaries) and where anyone taking on the job knows that it will involve them being Returning Officer…

The idea that there is a special extra payment for running an election stretches back to a time when contested elections were far less frequent (fewer elected bodies and uncontested seats more common). When having to run an election was an unusual requirement, an extra payment made sense. Now that regularly running elections is the norm it looks a rather unsatisfactory arrangement.

It is therefore good news from Wales where:

Council chief executives would only be paid as returning officers for work they do outside their normal office hours under proposals from the Welsh government.

A white paper suggests ending so-called double funding for elections staff.

It would mean council officials cannot be paid for working as electoral officers while also being paid by their authorities.

The plans are contained in a consultation on a Local Democracy Bill.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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4 Comments

  • Presumably the payment is therefore a statutory one and not one that a local authority can change or withhold?

  • John Carlisle 22nd May '12 - 9:08am

    Why not just come out and say it: “BONUSES ARE BAD!” – anywhere, anytime any organisation. You get paid to do the job. Full Stop.
    That should be the LibDem mantra

  • This article demonstrates the interesting effect of using a perjorative term such as ‘bonus’. The point at issue here is not a bonus, but an extra payment for doing an extra task. The task does not appear to be an onerous task, and the payment should be comensurate with the required work. In line with some of the previous comments, I think the extra payment should be no more than the council official’s normal overtime rate (zero for management grades?).

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