Hackney Council Chief Executive, Tim Shields, may not take payment for his role as acting returning officer following the chaos of election night. It is estimated nearly three hundred people were turned away from polling stations last Thursday without being able to vote, some saying they had queued for over ninety minutes. Hackney was the last London borough to announce Parliamentary election results – over fourteen hours after polling stations had closed.
A spokesperson for Hackney Council has said that Mr Shields is ‘considering waiving’ payment for overseeing the vote. The fee is an additional payment on top of Mr Shields’s normal council salary. According to the 2010 Town Hall Rich List published by The Tax Payers Alliance, Mr Shields’s 2008-2009 salary was £117, 956. The salary figure comes from a Freedom of Information request to the council.
There is no standard fee for acting as returning officer and the council have not said what Mr Shields’ payment would be. John Mothersole, the returning officer for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency, announced on Wednesday that he would not take payment of £20,000 for overseeing the vote there. As in Hackney the balloting in Sheffield was marred by long queues and people complaining that they were unable to vote.
Speaking to EastLondonLines after her re-election to the seat of Hackney South and Shoreditch, MP Meg Hillier said she and fellow Hackney MP Diane Abbott would both be putting in a formal complaint and request for an inquiry into how the vote was run. She also said she thought it had been a result of an organisational problem rather than high turnout.
‘We need to make sure that people can vote. It’s quite simple maths really, we know how many people are entitled to vote and we know how long it takes to get them through the system. There can be times when it can be challenging…but actually, it’s just logistics, it’s something that should have been able to be sorted.’