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.