Is the pay for Returning Officer about to be cut? (I hope so.)

I’ve blogged before my concerns over the payments made to council chief executives for running elections – they’re already well-paid posts and running elections is a long-established part of the role, so why should they receive extra payments, especially when those payments are pensionable, not (previously) dependent on performance and were increased just before the 2010 general election despite no-one having costed the increase?

So this exchange in Parliament was good to see:

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): What his policy is on the level of fees paid to returning officers. [900471]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): Returning officers are entitled under the Representation of the People Act 1983 to receive payments for administering election polls, as those responsibilities fall outside their local authority duties.

Andrew Selous: These are some of the highest paid public servants in the land, sometimes on salaries of about £200,000. How can we continue to justify paying these people extra sums of £30,000 or so just to do another task, for which their salary should be more than enough to compensate them?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I look forward to meeting him next week to discuss these matters further. Before the previous Government left office they increased the fees to returning officers, allowing fees to be paid uncapped for multiple constituencies. We in this Government froze those fees from that time. I look forward to our discussions and to hearing my hon. Friend’s views, which I know he has thoroughly researched.

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): May I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post and ask him to give consideration to the situation where returning officers have often made numerous mistakes during elections? We had this happen several years ago in Warrington when the wrong people were declared elected for some parish poll, yet there is no provision to reduce or take away the returning officer’s fee when that happens. Should that not happen? Will the Minister consider that?

Greg Clark: I am happy to take on board the hon. Lady’s suggestion. Of course, returning officers do not need to accept the fee. There are some honourable examples where returning officers have not taken the full fee to which they are entitled. That option is available to them.


2 responses to “Is the pay for Returning Officer about to be cut? (I hope so.)”

  1. This is an area that I am interested in.  Our CEO has received payments for many elections since being appointed – possibly up to £46,000 – equivalent to 25% of his salary.  Yet the council made the officer running elections redundant, and uses a consultant during the year of big elections.  As you say, retiring after a big election could post their pension by a huge amount by increasing their final salary.   Do you know if their is scope for the employing authority to require them to perform their functions outside of their normal work hours – or to reduce their existing salary to reflect the fact that they clearly cannot be performing the same full role.  How much to Returning Officers have the ability to delegate to council staff the work that they are being paid for?  Have you looked into the regulations behind these payments. ().

  2. Ray McHale One thing to check is the terms of employment of the CEO. The council has significant discretion over what these are and hence over their role and remuneration when it comes to elections.

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