Returning Officers Fees

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th October 2013.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire 11:30 am, 15th October 2013

What his policy is on the level of fees paid to returning officers.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

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.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

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?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

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.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

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?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

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.