Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Christopher Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (POS 47)


  I am writing to clarify the position on the financial split between local and national government for the combined pilot elections in June 2004 following our appearance at the ODPM Select Committee.

  The Government's position on the costs of piloting is that it will meet the additional costs attributable to running the European Parliamentary and local elections on an all-postal basis. The costs of European elections are to be met by central government through the appropriate Fees and Charges Order. The costs of the local elections will be met initially by the local authorities concerned in the usual way, and the extra costs of costs arising from piloting paid by means of the Local Government Act 2003.

  In the case of liabilities arising in the June elections, for all local elections it is expected that the Local Returning Officer will have recourse to their local insurance policies, which are funded by their local authorities. These policies vary in terms of their coverage, some including re-runs, others not. Should a challenge for a re-run be made, funding the re-run will depend on the circumstances and the reason for the petition. If the fault lies with the LRO, we would expect them to use their own insurance policy, or alternative funds to cover their costs. Should the petition be made on the basis that the pilots were at fault, it will be for LROs to seek recourse to central government for funding.

  Additional insurance has been taken out to cover the European elections for legal liabilities, including public, products, employers', official liability and libel and slander. However, this does not cover the costs of re-running a European election. It is the Government's intention that the costs of re-running European elections would be met from central funds.

  A re-run of the European election is highly unlikely. A petition can only be made in very specific circumstances and the court looks at whether the reason for the petition could have influenced the result of the election. Due to the voting system used for the European elections, it is highly unlikely that one isolated event will alter the result, to the region as a whole.

  It is more likely that a re-run will be petitioned against a particular local election; however, due to the restraints upon which a petition can be made, we anticipate only isolated incidents. For instance, there was only one re-run in the 2001 combined General and County elections.

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Prepared 20 May 2004