Hooray for Conservative MP Andrew Selous

Long-time readers will know that I’ve often criticised the widespread practice of local authority Chief Executives pocketing extra payments for running elections, even though most of the work is done by others, they are already well paid and everyone knows that the work they do is part of the job.

It’s even worse that such payments were increased ahead of the 2010 general election despite no-one first checking how much the pay increase would end up costing, that the payments are not just a one-off but also bump up people’s pension entitlements and – with the exception of the referendum this May – are payments that are made regardless of performance. Even losing parts of the marked register from two different constituencies and failing to count the votes properly did not stop payment in full for one lucky person.

So… three cheers for Conservative MP Andrew Selous, and even a cheer for Eric Pickles, for this exchange in Parliament:

Andrew Selous: Does he agree that council chief executives who double as returning officers and already earn more than he does should not receive an additional fee for overseeing elections?

Eric Pickles: This is something very close to all our hearts in this Chamber. That, of course, is a matter for the Secretary of State for Justice, but to me this seems common sense. I have not come across many chief executives who do the count and organise the postal votes; that is often done by the deputy returning officer. I know that a number of returning officers ensure that the extra money is shared among staff. I think that that is the right course, but if chief executives are pocketing that money, they should feel ashamed.

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7 Comments

  • Kevin Maher 8th Sep '11 - 1:16pm

    Is Pickles being disingenious here. Is he suggesting that returning officers who have paid tax, national insurance and pension contribution on their payment should then dole out whats left to their staff.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Sep '11 - 9:18pm

    I agree that these payments are unwarranted, but it’s worth pointing out that they are piddling amounts compared to the £25m the taxpayer is having to stump up to delay the police commisioner elections – at the request of the Lib Dems, because they think they’ll win more council seats that way.

  • Peter Chivall 9th Sep '11 - 10:06am

    @Stuart Mitchell. Actually Stuart we would rather not have these ‘Dodge City Sheriffs’ at all – at £160,000 a year each – far better the LibDem idea to increase the directly elected element in Police Authorities. I don’t know where Stuart has dreamed up the £25m from – perhaps from the same ‘think tank’ that gave us the £250m cost of AV? Mind you, the idea that it might, incidentally, help us to gain some more excellent LibDem councillors instead of the usual mass of donkeys with red/blue rosettes tied to their tails is an attractive bonus….

  • Stuart Mitchell 9th Sep '11 - 6:48pm

    Peter: I didn’t dream up the £25m figure, it was the figure stated by David Cameron at PMQs on Wednesday.

    You also have the wrong end of the stick – Lib Dems do NOT expect the police elections to increase their vote, quite the opposite, whch is why they are blowing £25m to schedule the police elections as far away from the local elections as possible.

    What with this, added to the £80m (not 100m as I guessed earlier) wasted on the AV referendum, the Lib Dems have basically squandered £105m of taxpayers’ money in a (futile) attempt to increase their party’s representation. Not good.

  • Stuart Mitchell 10th Sep '11 - 10:30am

    Simon: I am generally opposed to referenda because I think our system operates adequately without them. The EEC referendum was a justifiable exception; it’s hard to think of any others. In the case of the AV referendum, I thought it was a colossal waste of money.

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