Exeter's £100,000 bill for vote change referendum
A REFERENDUM on changing the way MPs are chosen cost taxpayers £100,000 in Exeter alone, according to an election watchdog.
Figures published by the Electoral Commission show the bill for organising the public vote in the city, as part of the national poll in May last year, was £100,317 – although this was below the £135,501 limit earmarked for running the ballot.
The two main costs were for the polling stations £43,045, and postal voting £22,039.
The cost of holding the referendum in surrounding areas was £107,537 in East Devon, £96,676 in Teignbridge, and £106,411 in Mid Devon.
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Again these were below the maximum spending limits set of £171,358, £173,360, and £119,219 respectively.
Expenditure incurred is reimbursed by central government.
The lower than expected fees and charges for holding the referendum were repeated across the country leading to a total cost nationally of £75m, compared to the official estimate in the run-up to the poll of around £100m.
The commission has called on the Government to learn lessons from running the referendum to prevent overestimates in any future election cost forecasts.
Jenny Watson, who chairs the Electoral Commission, said: "The public have a right to know how their money is spent at major polls, and we've been able to set this out for the first time.
"These figures show the Government's original estimates of the cost of the 2011 referendum were too high – by more than £20m– so it's important that lessons are learnt."
Voters overwhelmingly rejected the Liberal Democrat proposals to introduce the alternative vote system for Westminster elections, where candidates would be ranked in order of preference.
More than 19 million electors turned out for the vote, with 13 million of those opposing the voting reforms.
Across the UK, votes were cast at 42,800 polling stations staffed by 119,500 workers. Almost 7.2 million postal votes were issued to electors, of which 5.2 million were returned.
Counting officers claimed a total of £58.1m to cover the election running costs, while the rest of the money went on campaign mailshots, administration, staffing and grants to campaign groups.
Ms Watson, who was chief counting officer at the referendum, added: "The Government should publish full details of the costs of recent and future polls as we have done for the May 2011 referendum.
"This will enable the people running the polls – returning and counting officers – to use the information to ensure they are delivering best value for voters.
"The Government should also accept and implement the principle of agreeing funding legislation for polls by six months before polling day – rather than just four and a half weeks in this case – to allow for proper planning."
The Electoral Commission called on the Government to publish full details of the European Parliamentary elections held in 2009 and the 2010 general election as well as the recent police and crime commissioner elections.