Call to recoup costs of election is quashed

Richard Higgs. EMN-170611-152533001
Richard Higgs. EMN-170611-152533001

A former parish council chairman has controversially suggested residents who called for a by-election should be invited to contribute to the cost.

A by-election was called by a petition of 10 residents to fill a vacant seat on Heckington Parish Council, but no candidates came forward.

This meant, by election law, the process must start again with a rescheduled election due to take place on Thursday, December 14. The submission of nominations for this poll opened on Thursday and will close at 4pm on Friday, November 17.

Parish council chairman Coun Jan Palmer and clerk Julie Hudson explained the cost to the parish was likely to be around £3,500, and that would be a rolling figure which could grow if no candidates came forward, as the wheels had been set in motion and there was no mechanism to stop them and revert to a co-option process, which would cost nothing apart from the time taken for a formal vetting and interview procedure.

A spokesman for North Kesteven District Council, which acts as the electoral body, said: “Each time an election is held there are costs involved, including the printing and production of notices, letters, poll cards, postal votes as well as other administrative costs that allow the democratic process to take place.”

At last Monday’s parish council meeting, former chairman Richard Higgs, who has been recently co-opted back onto the council to fill another vacancy, having resigned two years ago, said: “It seems a waste of public money if there is no candidate. I understand we know the details of the 10 people on the list who called the election, we should write to them and ask if they would like to contribute to the cost.”

Coun Liz Peto responded saying the council should have budgeted in case of elections: “It is absurd, I have never heard anything so ridiculous.”

Coun Andy Garlick said it was odd that there was no-one in mind when they called the election but Coun Palmer suggested it would be better to educate electors of the potential costs.

NKDC has confirmed councils cannot directly recoup election costs as it is a democratic right.