Bonanza Time For Returning Officers

Next Week Will Be Bonanza Time For Returning Officers

West Lancashire Borough Council Statement of Accounts 2018/19 includes, for Salary & Election Fees, Chief Executive, £108,657. For the West Lancashire Constituency its Returning Officer will receive £3,523. Maximum Constituency total costs, £194,273.

Reports that “Salary boost makes returning officers the winners in general elections. A bumper five years for elections have earned highly paid council chiefs tens of thousands of pounds in extra payments. A council chief has received nearly £150,000 in four years for being a returning officer on top of his salary, prompting calls for a review of how public officials are paid to oversee elections.

Tom Riordan

“Leeds city council’s chief executive, has been paid £147,921.66 in fees since 2015 on top of his £182,085 salary, even though much of the election work was carried out during his normal office hours. For this month’s general election he is entitled to a further £28,424, making the total fees almost a year’s salary since the 2015 general election. The council defended the payments and said Riordan could have received even more had he not passed on to his deputies £12,754.33 for this year’s European election.

“Council bosses across the country have benefited from a glut of polls in recent years, including three general elections, the EU referendum and the European election. Riordan does not receive a fee for local elections, though many chief executives do.

“At Sunderland city council, which traditionally wins the race to declare the first general election result, chiefs have received a total of £140,746 since 2015. The payments, received by four holders of the post, include fees for two police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections and local elections as well as the national and European polls. The current Sunderland chief executive, Patrick Melia, who has a salary of £180,000, received an extra £50,168 this year for local elections, a PCC vote and the European poll. He stands to get a further £10,008 for next week’s election.

“Glasgow city council said Annemarie O’Donnell, its chief executive, had received £122,444.42 since 2015. She is entitled to £21,267 for next week. Her annual salary is £176,855. O’Donnell’s total, which included a Scottish parliamentary election in 2016, was less than she was entitled to. She declined a fee for the last round of local council elections and an unspecified share of her fees was passed on to staff, charities and community groups.

“According to parliamentary fee orders governing payments for returning officers, Manchester city council’s chief executive has been entitled to £94,578 for European and national polls since 2015, with £18,691 due for next week. The council was unable to confirm whether the two officers who have held the chief executive position had received their full entitlement. Joanne Roney, who has held the role since 2017, has a salary of £205,671.

“Newcastle city council confirmed that its chief executive, Pat Ritchie, had received £68,216 in fees on top of her salary, currently £183,891, since 2015. She does not receive payments for local elections but will receive £8,820 for the general election.

“The payments were described as “totally unsustainable” by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Cat Smith, who was Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister before parliament was dissolved, has called for a government review into the fee system. Riordan is thought to be the best-paid returning officer in the country. Leeds is the second-largest local authority area. The largest, Birmingham, operates a pay policy that precludes chiefs from receiving returning officer fees. The entitlement is distributed to less senior staff carrying out election work.

STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS
2019 No. 1454
REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE
The Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers’ Charges) Order 2019

“The maximum payments available to returning officers, who are nearly always council chief executives, for national, European and crime commissioner polls are set in parliamentary statutory orders, with the sums calculated according to electorate size. Most payments are the responsibility of the Cabinet Office, but local authorities take care of council election fees. Returning officers: maximum recoverable amount for specified services. “In January last year the Cabinet Office said the fees would be part of a wider review into election funding, which has yet to be concluded. Leeds city council said “Elections require those involved to work most evenings, weekends and bank holidays for a prolonged period”.

So “even though much of the election work was carried out during his normal office hours” sounds like double funding for the “rich get rich” brigade. But it’s taxpayers who pay! Where have we heard that before?

 

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