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A statement on the cost of mayoral elections in Bristol
Release date: Thu, 05/04/2012
Statement in response to the government's claim that it will cost £170,000 to arrange elections for a mayor beyond the referendum.
"Bristol City Council estimated the costs of holding future Mayoral elections (should there be a 'yes' vote in the May referendum) as about £400,000 if a stand-alone election (i.e. no other city-wide Bristol elections on the same day) or about £360,000 if coinciding with another election (such as a Parliamentary General Election, which pushes up turnout). This is based on both experience of actual costs of running elections, as well as reasonable considerations (such as allowing for the additional complexity and therefore cost of counting ballots under the Supplementary Vote system required for Mayoral elections, instead of the sometimes more straightforward First Past the Post)."
"It is a matter of fact that elections in Bristol cost around £400,000 to run, and the Government has previously long accepted this. That is just how much these things cost when you count in the costs of running 164 polling stations, and paying around 350 poll clerks to staff them; as well as sending out 320,000 polling cards and 43,000 postal votes, and the postage on those postal votes returned by Freepost. Add in typically 200 people to count ballots, and 60 more staff on top to individually verify signature and date of birth on every single postal vote, this whole thing adds up pretty quickly. Although there are some cost savings when two elections are run at the same time (e.g. most polling stations stay the same size when there are two elections, though some extra polling clerks are sometimes needed), most of the costs remain in place - hence our estimate of 90% of the costs of a stand-alone election. Detailed breakdowns of estimated election costs are contained in the attached spreadsheet we are publishing today"
"If you consider the Government's own estimates, contained in the attached DCLG paper (see pages11-13) it is true that they estimate Mayoral election costs in Bristol at 'only' £173,000. Their methodology is however rather questionable - for example, showing Bristol's estimated costs as being much lower than other smaller cities, like Newcastle and Wakefield. They have offered no explanation for why their estimates for Bristol are the lowest for any city affected, by a huge margin."
"Officers of Bristol City Council have no interest in either encouraging people to vote either 'yes' or 'no' in the upcoming referendum, and certainly would not over-inflate estimated election costs to try to affect this. It was simply our duty to use our best professional expertise, and detailed knowledge of how much previous elections have actually cost, to come up with an estimate for future election costs. We have provided extensive supporting evidence behind our estimates, and we stand behind them.”