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Council Executive To Pocket Large Sum
South Lanarkshire Council’s chief executive could pocket up to £52,000 for running four polls in three years. Lindsay Freeland, who takes on the responsibility of Returning Officer during elections, is potentially the third highest earner out of the bosses of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
He earns an annual salary of between £149,000 and £156,000.
Figures reveal Mr Freeland earned up to £11,776 in the independence Referendum in 2014, £11,886 in last year’s UK elections, £17,188 in Thursday’s Holyrood election and could get up £11,515 for acting as Returning Officer in the forthcoming EU referendum.
Only Glasgow City Council’s chief exec, Annemarie O’Donnell, and Fife’s Steven Grimmond could pocket more at £77,012 and £66,450 respectively.
The staggering amounts have led to the society that represents council chiefs, SOLACE Scotland, to brand the system as “old fashioned” and would probably benefit from review.
Meanwhile, Willie Sullivan, the director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland, said returning officers had a “vital and sometimes tricky job to do”.
He added: “However, I’m sure the public will find these sums quite remarkable.
“The importance of these roles makes one wonder why they are not already part of the job description. Then perhaps some of this money could be spent on convincing Scots who don’t vote, the majority of whom are poor, that voting is worthwhile.”
The UK Cabinet Office, which sets the rate, said fees were kept under review and that the role of Returning Officer was “statutorily independent from their normal employment”.
Lindsay Freeland joined South Lanarkshire Council in 1995, having previously served as deputy director of housing with Cunninghame District Council.
Returning Officers are responsible for ensuring that elections are administered effectively in their constituencies.
They are personally liable for the conduct of polls and could face court action if they breach their official duty.
As well as providing polling stations, managing the postal voting process, verifying and counting votes, they must declare the result.
A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said: “The payments for returning officers are set at a national level in connection with their key role in ensuring the efficient and effective conduct of elections and referendums.”