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Agenda Item No. 8

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Council - 20th July 2016

 

Report of the Managing Director

 

Designation of Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer Duties

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To ask Council to formalise arrangements for the designation of the statutory role of Returning Officer and associated role of Electoral Registration Officer.

Recommendations

  1. That Council formalise the designation of Mrs D Marles as the Council's Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer with immediate and ongoing effect.
  2. That Council approve the designation of Mrs V. Davidson as the Council's Deputy Electoral Registration Officer with immediate and ongoing effect.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To comply with the statutory requirements of the Representation of the People Acts
    1983, 1985 and 2000 (as amended).
  2. To provide continuing resilience for the Council's Electoral Registration Team.

Background

  1. Members will be aware that Debbie Marles, Head of Legal Services/Monitoring Officer was designated as the Council's Returning Officer on the 12th November 2014 alongside the associated role of Electoral Registration Officer.
  2. The above designation was approved initially on a two year interim basis (up to 12th November 2016) in the light of the retirement of the previous Managing Director and in order to ensure stability and leadership in this key area.
  3. It was agreed, at the time that the position would be reviewed following the UK Parliamentary elections in 2015, the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016 and in the context of a review of the Council's Senior Management structure.
  4. It is now timely to put in place more formalised arrangements for such designation in order to ensure continuity over the coming years. Members will be aware that the senior management arrangements were successfully reviewed in September 2015 and have ensured continuing improvements in the performance of the Council.
  5. Arrangements for the elections over the last two years (including the recent EU Referendum) have been well managed thanks to the leadership provided by the officer concerned and the Council's Electoral Registration Team.
  6. Commendations in relation to the planning and execution of the election process were received from the Electoral Commission and, in respect of the recent EU Referendum from the Regional Counting Officer.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Members will be aware that the Returning Officer role includes overall responsibility for the conduct of elections and is an appointment made in accordance with the Representation of the People Acts 1983, 1985 and 2000 (as amended).
  2. Within this Council the role of Returning Officer is undertaken alongside the related role of Electoral Registration Officer (ERO). The main duty of the ERO is the creation and maintenance of the Register of Electors and similar tasks in relation to the Absent Voters List.
  3. On the basis of the issues set out in paragraphs 2 to 6 it is proposed that the current Head of Legal Services / Monitoring Officer is now formally designated as the Proper Officer for all Electoral Registration and Returning Officer functions on an ongoing basis from 20 July 2016.
  4. The officer is clearly well placed to undertake the responsibilities given her seniority and expertise within the Council and her experience of undertaking the role over the last two years.
  5. The above designation will continue to include the undertaking of the role of:
  • Returning Officer for local, community, parish and town council elections/referenda.
  • Acting Returning Officer for Assembly / Parliamentary elections/referenda.
  • Local Returning Officer/Counting Officer for European elections/referenda (if applicable)
  • Deputy Returning for Police and Crime Commissioner elections.
  • Electoral Registration Officer.
  1. Responsibility for the above needs to be undertaken by an existing senior officer of the Council. Such a role is separate from an officer's duties as a local government officer and requires the undertaking of responsibilities of a personal nature and being directly accountable to the court as an independent statutory office holder.
  2. On the basis of the above the allocation of responsibility to the Head of Legal Services/Monitoring Officer will not have implications for the post holder's current salary and terms and conditions
  3. Fees will, however continue to be due for duties undertaken as Returning Officer in respect of elections and referenda as and when they happen. Such fees are referenced in the Council's current Employee Pay Policy 2016/17.
  4. Fees for Local Government Elections and bi-elections (as and when) will vary according to the nature of the elections and the number of contested and uncontested wards. Returning Officer fees for non-local elections are set by legislation prior to the election and within Fees and Charges Orders.
  5. Members will be aware that there is statutory provision for the Returning Officer to appoint a Deputy Returning Officer (or officers) as the need arises and without recourse to a separate decision by Council.
  6. It is also good practice for an officer to be formally designated as Deputy Electoral Registration Officer. Such a decision would, however need to be approved by Council. On the basis of this it is therefore proposed that Ms Victoria Davidson (Operational Manager - Legal Services) is formally designated in this role.
  7. The above proposal strengthens the informal arrangements that have been in place over the last 2 years and will help ensure continuing resilience in this key area.
  8. As is the case with the ERO, there are no implications for the postholder's existing terms and conditions and will deputy cover will only be necessary in the absence of the ERO. Members will be advised that there are no fees attributable to the role and therefore no additional resource implications.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The resource implications are set out in paragraphs 15 and 16.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Council has a statutory responsibility to designate an officer as Returning Officer in accordance with the Representation of the People Acts 1983, 1985 and 2000 (as amended).
  2. If approved, the role will be distinct and separate from the post holder's substantive role as Head of Legal Services/Monitoring Officer.
  3. The arrangement will not involve the separate "appointment of a chief officer" but simply the allocation of the role to an existing chief officer.
  4. For the above reason the arrangement does not invoke Regulation 9 of The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and as such does not need to be subject to external advertisement.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no crime and disorder implications directly arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. In proposing the allocation of the role of Returning Officer to the Head of Legal Services/Monitoring Officer consideration has been given to the required experience, knowledge and seniority required for the role. The recommendation is made following consultation with all members of the Corporate Management Team.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The proposals within this report have been designed to meet the statutory requirements of the Council.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for consideration by Council.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Consultation has taken place with Cabinet Members, Group Leaders, Members
    of the Corporate Management Team and with the recognised trade unions.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Performance and Resources.

Background Papers

None.

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas

Managing Director

 

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