Pay for top Derby council role could rise by nearly £8k

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A decision will be made at a meeting to be held soon

The fee Derby City Council’s returning officer gets paid for managing local elections in the city could soon be increased by thousands of pounds - but the authority denies it is a pay rise.

A meeting on Wednesday will see councillors vote on whether or not the officer in post should get a fee of £8,297 when a full local election takes place - including the one held two months ago.

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A report ahead of the council meeting said the council’s returning officer (RO) currently receives a fee of £340 for running a local election.

Councillors are being recommended “to approve the payment of the fee of £8,297.10 to the RO for the elections held on May 4, 2023″.

The RO has the responsibility “to ensure that the local election is administered effectively and that the experience of voters is a positive one”.

They are personally liable for the conduct of the election and should demonstrate robust planning and effective decision-making.

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Tasks for the RO include publishing notice of election, administering the nomination process, printing ballot papers, publishing notice of poll, provision of polling stations, appointing polling station staff, managing the postal vote process, verifying and counting the votes, and declaring results.

In May when the last local elections were held, the council’s RO was Emily Feenan - who carried out the role in addition to her full-time job as director of legal, procurement and democratic services.

This pays an annual salary of at least £85,000.

Ms Feenan is still the council’s RO, it has been confirmed.

But the RO role is different and not included as part of her main job role.

The RO role is not directly responsible to the local authority and is instead directly accountable to the courts as an “independent statutory office holder”.

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The RO fee has been set at £340 per year since 2002 for local elections.

But the council said this figure is now “not reflective of the personal responsibility and duties and skills required for the role, the recent boundary changes that have taken place across the city and the change to whole council elections”.

The council said a review of the £340 fee is needed as the fee level is “significantly out of line with the fees paid to ROs in other local authorities of similar size and composition” - and therefore the council said it is a “review of pay” and not a pay rise.

The fee proposed - £8,297 - would be payable in each four-yearly election cycle.

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Additional payments would be made should a by-election be held, with the fee based on the electorate size for the ward being represented.

This means the next payment due to the RO would be for local elections held on May 6, 2027.

This is because Derby City Council voted to have all-out (every councillor/every ward) elections every four years - and no longer elections for three out of every four years.

But this could change if there was a by-election within the next four years.

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A spokesperson for Derby City Council said: “The fees payable to the RO for local elections have not changed since 2002. The change to four-yearly elections provides an opportunity for the council to revisit RO fees. The fee is paid for each local election and not per year.

“As the report details, the current fee structure is no longer proportionate with the significant level of responsibility and personal accountability associated with the role. It is important to note that the RO is accountable directly to the courts and that their statutory role is distinct from the postholder’s day-to-day responsibilities as an employee of the council.

“The report also explains that the current fee payable to the RO for the administration of local elections is substantially less than all of the council’s closest comparators. The report recommends the adoption of the fee structure used by every other local authority in Derbyshire that is also comparable to the fees paid to ROs by the Government for conducting national polls, such as general elections.”

The report said failure to approve the fee increase from £340 to £8,297 could “disadvantage the council in the recruitment and retention of individuals qualified to undertake the role”.

The full council meeting starts at 6pm.

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