A SERIES of recent polls, both national and local, have delivered a major financial windfall for council chief executives, with returning officer payments over the last two years running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Last year’s General Election plus the previous year’s EU referendum and police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections meant senior officials, particularly in the largest and most densely-populated council areas, were able to claim very substantial sums on top of their annual salaries.
The payments are set nationally through Parliamentary statutory orders, with amounts available to be claimed by returning officers based around the size of electorate.
If a returning officer undertakes both a local and wider area role, as Leeds Council’s Tom Riordan did at the West Yorkshire PCC election and EU referendum in 2016, the sums are significant.
Mr Riordan’s payment of £65,567 in 2016/17 was made up of £33,264 split between the Leeds and deputy police area returning officer roles at the West Yorkshire PCC election and £32,303 split between the Leeds and the Yorkshire regional counting officer roles at the EU referendum.
As Leeds Council’s geographical area also covers a large number of Parliamentary constituencies, Mr Riordan was also able to receive a further £27,710 for the returning officer role at the General Election last year. He did not receive any payments for being the returning officer at local council elections over the same period.
Joanne Roney, who was Wakefield’s chief executive in 2016/17, received £37,557 that year made up of £17,354 for both the Wakefield and police area roles at the West Yorkshire PCC election, £11,203 as local counting officer at the EU referendum and £9,000 as returning officer at local council elections.
Ms Roney’s immediate successor, Andrew Wallhead, who was interim chief executive, received £10,314 as returning officer for the general election in 2017/18.
Kersten England’s payment of £30,972 in 2016/17 was for the West Yorkshire PCC election and EU referendum with the Bradford chief executive receiving another £14,564 for the General Election the following year. She didn’t receive any payment for local elections.
In Sheffield, council chief executive John Mothersole received £21,501 in 2016/17 for the South Yorkshire PCC election and EU referendum and £10,498 for general election in 2017/18.
Mr Riordan, Ms Roney, Ms England and Mr Mothersole all receive salary packages in excess of £200,000.
Other significant payments included Merran McRae receiving £15,247 while Calderdale chief executive in 2016/17 for the EU and PCC polls and Kirklees chief executive in 2016/17 Adrian Lythgo receiving £15,076 for the same polls.
Barnsley chief executive Diana Terris received £16,424 for the EU and South Yorkshire PCC polls with her Rotherham counterpart Sharon Kemp receiving an £13,089 for the EU poll, the South Yorkshire PCC poll and local council elections in 2016/17. Ms Terris and Ms Kemp received another £6,185 and £5,983 for the general election respectively.
Harrogate Council published returning officer payments in its accounts with chief executive Wallace Sampson receiving £13,894 in 2016/17 and £9,458 last year with the payments covering the North Yorkshire PCC, EU and local election polls.
Ryedale chief executive in 2016/17 Janet Waggott received a total of £13,000 for the referendum and North Yorkshire PCC election, where she was returning officer for the whole force area.