Electoral Commission
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Electoral Commission statement on performance of Tower Hamlets Returning Officer at 2014 European and local elections

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000) the Electoral Commission has a statutory power to determine and publish standards of performance for Returning Officers. 

Following the European Parliamentary, local and mayoral elections in May 2014, the Commission said that it would delay making its final assessment of the Tower Hamlets Returning Officer’s performance against these standards until after the publication of the Tower Hamlets election petition judgement, which related to the election of the Tower Hamlets Mayor. Following publication of this judgement earlier this year, the Electoral Commission has now concluded its assessment of the Returning Officer’s performance.  

The Electoral Commission has found that in respect of the verification and count at the European Parliamentary and local elections, the Returning Officer did not meet elements of performance standards 1 and 2. 

Performance standard 1 relates to voters and the need for them to have confidence that their vote will be counted in the way they intended. Performance standard 2 relates to those who want to stand for election and the need for candidates to have confidence that the count process is well-managed, and have confidence in the results.

The Commission found that the Returning Officer had inadequate resources for the verification of ballot papers and counting of ballot papers. This meant that the delivery of the verification and count was severely delayed, but did achieve an accurate result in a transparent manner.

The Returning Officer at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets met the Commission’s performance standards in relation to his duties at the 2014 mayoral election.

After each election, where fees are payable by Government, the Commission may recommend to the Secretary of State that there should a reduction in the fee paid to a Returning Officer if the Commission believes their performance has been inadequate.  Alternatively, a Returning Officer may themselves propose a reduction in the fee they may take. 

The Tower Hamlets Returning Officer agreed with the Commission’s assessment of his performance and to a reduction in his fee for carrying out his duties as Returning Officer for the European Parliamentary election. As a result the Returning Officer will be receiving a reduction of 12.5% (£1,105.38) of their total fee of £8,843.

The Electoral Commission will continue to support the Returning Officer in Tower Hamlets in all aspects of his work including in relation to electoral integrity issues.

For further information contact:

Karim Aziz in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 orkaziz@electoralcommission.org.uk 
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. Returning Officers are legally entitled to recover their charges in respect of services rendered, or expenses incurred, for, or in connection with, an election. This is comprised of two elements: a maximum amount recoverable in respect of specified services rendered and a maximum amount recoverable in respect of specified expenses incurred in connection with the election. This first element is commonly referred to as the RO’s ‘personal fee’. At the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, under the European Parliamentary (Amendment) Regulations 2013 the Commission may make a recommendation to the Secretary of State that a local returning officer or returning officer’s personal fee should be reduced or withheld (and therefore be less than the maximum amount recoverable set out in the relevant Fees and Charges Order) where the Commission thinks that the (L) ROs performance has been inadequate.
  3. The Electoral Commission considered whether a reduction in fees was appropriate based upon performance against four key areas of responsibility: the planning, general management and oversight of the election; the provision and organisation of polling stations; postal voting; and the verification and count. In relation to the delivery of these four areas for the European Parliamentary election in May 2014, the Commission considered it would be appropriate to reduce the fee in relation to the delivery of the element relating to the count process only.
Channel website: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk

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