Regional and local returning officers are facing the prospect of not being paid for the time they’ve spent organising the European elections, in the event that they are cancelled.
The decision has been made collectively by the 13 regional returning officers to guarantee the pay for casual staff, including poll clarks, presiding officers and count staff, which make up the majority of electoral staff.
The “core election staff” are on the payroll of councils, and their pay is also protected. But according to Ian Miller, Wyre Forest DC chief executive and electoral registration officer, it is “entirely unclear” at this point whether regional and local returning officers, who are paid by the Cabinet Office, will get paid for the preparatory work they’re putting in, if a Brexit agreement is passed and the elections are cancelled.
”I am not suggesting we should get the full fee, but it would be entirely unfair if we get nothing,” said Mr Miller. “The amount we do varies, some may be more assiduous than others. But to suggest we would have done nothing would be incorrect.
”We have never had an election that’s been cancelled which hasn’t then been rescheduled, so we’re all in uncharted territory.”
Theresa May is still clinging to the hope she can secure backing for her Brexit deal before May 22, which would mean the EU poll would be cancelled. The Labour and Conservative party both have yet to launch their EU election campaigns.
Mark Heath, the regional returning officer for the South East, explained that the decision was made to safeguard the pay of casual staff, because ”they are the people some of us are struggling to recruit”. ”The Cabinet Office told regional returning officers to do something collectively and we have worked to come up with an approach that shows consistency,” he said.
”The rest of the people will be dealt with in a different way and that’s something we are currently in discussions about.”
Mr Miller said that in his electoral region, 80 to 90 count staff are required for the EU elections and so far, only half - 45 - have confirmed they will work the count which this year falls on a bank holiday weekend.
”Some are probably going to say no - attracting people who want to give up their bank holiday weekend is a struggle as a lot of parents and grandparents will be going off on holiday,” he said. ”We’re offering an uplift of 25% on what we would normally pay on a weekday.”
Peter Stanyon, the chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said that given the challenges that returning officers are facing in holding local and EU elections back to back, their attitude is currently one of “tired resignation”, with one ERO telling LGC last week how “frustrating” it was that clarification from the Cabinet Office on what expenses could be reimbursed if the poll was cancelled had not been forthcoming.
Last Thursday the government published its figures on the maximum amount that returning officers and local returning officers can claim back for expenses and services that are run up during the European election period.
|1Electoral Region||2Maximum recoverable amount for the specified services||3Maximum recoverable amount for the specified expenses||4Overall maximum recoverable amount|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||£12,000||£34,249||£46,249|