Scotland politics

Review of election officer payments

election count Paisley Image copyright Inpho
Image caption Returning officers have been paid thousands on top of their normal salaries.

Extra payments to returning officers for overseeing elections are to be reviewed by the UK government.

MSPs had raised concerns about the system, which can result in council chief executives being paid thousands of pounds on top of their salaries.

In 2016 almost £500,000 was available for Scotland's 32 returning officers for Holyrood and EU referendum votes.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the review would form part of wider work to improve value for money.

He outlined the plan in a letter to MSPs, saying the review was due to begin "in the second half of 2017".

'Funding review'

He wrote: "We recognise that concerns have been raised about significant payments to those who are already earning large salaries, and that is something that warrants further consideration.

"The UK government is already looking to review the funding of national elections for which we hold responsibility, following on from changes to the funding process instituted in 2010, to seek to find efficiencies and improve value for money.

"We intend to consider payments to returning officers as part of that process."

Holyrood's local government committee had called for the payments to be overhauled. MSPs held an inquiry into the system, which they said lacked transparency.

Returning officers have argued that the importance of the job merits extra pay.

Mr Mundell highlighted in his letter that "the policy has been that they are paid for undertaking this role which is separate from any duties hey have at the local authority".

The Scottish government has committed to consulting on electoral reform in the coming year, with new powers over the conduct of elections being devolved under the Scotland Act.

Government business manager Joe Fitzpatrick said there is "time to consult on these issues", with several years to run until the next Holyrood election.

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