Pay Rise For Scilly Election Workers Rejected

polling stationPlans to boost the pay of the Council’s returning officer and polling station workers on local election day have been rejected.

The general election is funded by government and staff rates have increased. But the Town Hall has to pay the local election costs and there hasn’t been a rate increase for two years.

Administration officer Sue Pritchard presented a report recommending staff pay should increase from around £165 to £195 to mirror Cornwall’s rates.

Sue argued that staff worked 16 hours on polling day. Workers traveling from St Mary’s to off-island polling stations had an even longer day and the overall workload had increased as there were now around 180 postal votes to count.

Sue also wanted those staff to be paid an additional £45 for around an hour of training. Cllr Richard McCarthy didn’t support that, claiming it was, “a bit weird.”

She pointed out that when Council staff work on election day, they take a day’s leave to do it.

But that didn’t sway Cllr Amanda Martin, who told her, “we’re familiar with the concept of giving up time for the community.”

Sue Pritchard warned members that she had met “a certain amount of resistance” trying to persuade people to work for a, “considerably less sum” than they earned in November’s referendum.

Cllr Martin wanted to know whether the work had been offered within the wider community beyond the Town Hall. She questioned whether the jobs had been advertised widely because her friends were unaware of it.

Sue said both Council staff and other locals have been asked, but Amanda said she’d like a recruitment campaign and wanted to retain the current pay rate. She felt it would be a, “nice little earner for people who are not on huge salaries” and shouldn’t be for a, “restricted group of people.”

Sue Pritchard also asked Councillors to approve a pay rise for the returning officer, a role held most recently by Neville Gardner, and their deputy.

Sue proposed doubling the election payment for a contested ward to £400 and increasing the payment for an uncontested seat from £75 to £100. The deputy would get half that payment.

Sue argued that the role brought responsibilities. A past returning officer had been called to the High Court because of electoral issues, she said.

But Cllr Martin said she couldn’t support a rise that was, “a considerable amount of money.”

Despite Mrs Pritchard’s numerous appeals, Cllr Martin was not convinced and told the meeting some islanders should take on board the need to limit expenditure, saying, “we are all in this together.”

It’s likely that Full Council will discuss proposals for more modest election staff pay rises in March.

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