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The costs of delivering the June 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union

Summary

On 23 June 2016 a referendum was held across the United Kingdom and Gibraltar about whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union.

We had a number of specific responsibilities and functions in relation to the referendum, which included our then Chair, Jenny Watson, acting as Chief Counting Officer (CCO) with overall responsibility for the administration of the poll.

The CCO appointed a Regional Counting Officer (RCO) for each of the eleven electoral regions in Great Britain.

The local government Returning Officer (RO) for each local authority in Great Britain was the Counting Officer (CO) for that area. The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland was the CO for the whole of Northern Ireland.

We were also responsible for overseeing and accounting to the UK Parliament for the payment of fees to RCOs and COs for running the referendum and the reimbursement of the costs they incurred in doing so.

About this report

This report sets out the operational cost of running the referendum. The objective of publishing this information is to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of public funds in the running of major polls. This report covers:

  • the Electoral Commission’s costs, including grants given to the designated lead campaigners
  • the costs of mailings for the designated lead campaigners
  • the costs of RCOs and COs

Although we published a costs report following the last UK wide referendum in May 2011 (on the UK Parliamentary voting system), we haven’t carried out comparisons between the costs of that poll in 2011 and the costs of the referendum in 2016. The referendum of May 2011 was held on the same day as a number of other elections, which meant that many of the costs incurred in running the referendum, such as the hire of polling stations and count venues, were shared with those other elections. As a result it is difficult to compare the figures in any meaningful way.

We are publishing this report now as we have only recently settled the final claims from COs. Completing the claims process took longer than originally thought as the majority of claims were submitted close to the deadline and generated more queries than had been anticipated. As a result, our analysis of the claims was delayed. The announcement of the early UK Parliamentary General Election in April 2017 also exacerbated this as resources had to be diverted – by both local authorities and the Commission – to ensure the successful delivery of that poll.

This report does not cover spending by campaigners or referendum campaign broadcast costs.

Details of the expenditure of registered campaigners, including designated lead campaigners, are available on our searchable online database, PEF Online,  and are discussed in more detail in our ‘Report on the regulation of campaigners at the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union held on 23 June 2016’ (March 2017).

About the referendum

Our report on the EU referendum, published in September 2016,  provides an analysis of the administration of the referendum. This included the experience of voters and campaigners, the management and delivery of the poll, the regulation of campaigners at the referendum and the provision of information for voters.

At the referendum on 23 June 2016:

  • a total of 46,500,001 people were registered to vote
  • 33,577,342 electors cast a vote – a turnout of 72.2%
  • 16,141,241 people voted Remain – 48.1% of all valid votes
  • 17,410,742 people voted Leave – 51.9% of all valid votes
  • there were 25,359 rejected ballot papers
  • 382 COs set up 41,050 polling stations
  • 107,100 staff worked in those polling stations
  • over 51,500 staff worked on verifying and counting the ballot papers
  • over 8.5 million postal votes were issued to electors, representing 18.4% of the UK electorate, of which 7.3 million (87.6%) were returned
  • there were 123 registered campaign groups, and two official lead campaign groups were designated by the Electoral Commission:
    • Vote Leave
    • Britain Stronger in Europe (Britain Stronger in Europe was the campaign name for The In Campaign Ltd)
  • the Electoral Commission distributed 28 million information booklets to households across the UK

View the local totals for all voting areas and the overall result.

Costs of the referendum

The total cost of the conduct of the referendum was £129.128m.

Cost breakdown

£7.998m in operating costs by the Electoral Commission, including:

  • £1.642m direct staff costs
  • £6.025m public awareness activity costs
  • £0.331m costs of the administration of RCO and CO claims

£26.589, relating to the designated organisations:

  • £1.200m grants to Designated Organisations
  • £25.389m in designated organisation mailings and other Royal Mail costs

£94.541m in CO and RCO costs including:

  • polling station costs
  • postal vote costs
  • poll card costs
  • count costs
  • fees for RCO and CO services

A more detailed breakdown per category can be found in section 3: The cost of the referendum.

How the referendum was funded

The legislative framework

Background

Legislation enacted by the UK Parliament, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), sets out the legal framework for referendums and gives the Electoral Commission specific responsibilities. It also specifies that there will be a Chief Counting Officer (CCO), with overall responsibility for running a referendum.

Before a referendum under this legislative framework can take place, specific additional legislation is needed, covering details such as:

  • the date of the referendum
  • the referendum question
  • specific rules for running the referendum

The UK Government was responsible for the detailed legislation for this referendum. The European Union Referendum Bill was introduced to Parliament on 28 May 2015 and passed into law on 17 December 2015.

Several pieces of secondary legislation were also required before the referendum could take place. This included regulations to specify the detailed rules for the administration of the poll and to provide funding for the Counting Officers (COs) and Regional Counting Officers (RCOs) to deliver the referendum.

Administration of the poll

The European Union Referendum Act 2015 enabled the CCO to appoint an RCO for each of the eleven electoral regions in Great Britain. These regions were the same as those used for European Parliamentary elections. There were nine regions in England, with Gibraltar included in the South West electoral region, plus Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland was a single voting area, with the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland as the CO.

The European Union Referendum (Conduct) Regulations 2016, which were made on 25 February 2016, specified the rules for the administration of the poll and were largely modelled on those used for the May 2011 referendum on the voting system for UK Parliamentary elections.

Funding of the poll

The funding allocation for the EU Referendum followed the existing framework established by the UK Government for the funding of both UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections. Under this framework the Cabinet Office calculated a Maximum Recoverable Amount (MRA) for each Counting Officer and Regional Counting Officer within which they could allocate resources as they saw fit, provided that sums spent were necessary for the efficient and effective conduct of the referendum. This calculation of the overall MRA by the Cabinet Office was based on the amount actually spent for the last relevant national poll, adjusted for factors such as inflation and other increased costs.

The European Union Referendum (Counting Officers’ and Regional Counting Officers’ Charges) Regulations 2016, which were made on 22 March 2016, set out how the MRAs RCOs and COs could recover for their costs in running the referendum.  This included both their personal services in delivering those roles and the expenses they incurred in administering the poll.

In addition, with the consent of the Treasury, we were able to authorise the payment of more than the MRA if we were satisfied that it was necessary to incur the expense for the efficient and effective conduct of the referendum and the charge for it was reasonable.

Legislative requirements, along with directions issued by the CCO, determined some of the costs that needed to be incurred. These included the need to provide staff and venues, and the number that should be provided. COs were able to control other costs incurred by decisions taken locally. For example, some local authorities were able to negotiate costs for the hire of polling stations.

We were given responsibility for administering the process by which RCOs and COs were paid their fees and reimbursed for their costs in running the referendum. We were also given powers to make regulations setting out the detailed procedures for that process.  We did this in The Counting Officers’, Regional Counting Officers’ and Chief Counting Officer’s Accounts (European Union Referendum) Regulations 2016.

In March 2016 we published comprehensive guidance for RCOs and COs on how they should account for their expenditure, and to support them with the process of submitting their claims.

In line with the UK Government’s previous practice, once we had the statutory authority to do so, we paid COs an advance of 75% of their MRA from April 2016. The purpose of this was to allow COs to meet any immediate pre-poll costs and pay for staff, venues, equipment and other services immediately after the poll.

That left the remaining 25% of the MRA for each CO to be reimbursed as soon as their claim was submitted and settled. Also in line with previous practice, we allowed COs who thought their 75% advance would be insufficient to meet their immediate costs to apply for an increased advance (up to 90% of the MRA in total). No CO took advantage of this facility.

Processing of claims

As had been the case in 2011, we engaged the Elections Claims Unit (ECU), part of the Cabinet Office, as subject matter experts to receive and process claims from COs for reimbursement of their costs. The cost for ECU’s services, which included staffing, accommodation and associated administrative costs, was £0.331m.

COs were asked to submit referendum claims to the ECU within 6 months of the date of the poll. This made the deadline 23 December 2016. The ECU was then responsible for checking that:

  • costs had been accounted for correctly
  • the necessary supporting evidence had been supplied
  • the items claimed were reimbursable in line with the guidance we had provided

As part of this process the ECU was able to request additional information or evidence from COs and query items of expenditure.

The ECU followed the model of three levels of scrutiny introduced by the Cabinet Office in 2014. The three levels were: plain accounts, light touch and full scrutiny. Each level of scrutiny had different requirements for supporting evidence. While in every category a Counting Officer was required to account for their expenditure, those in the Plain Accounts scrutiny category only needed to supply invoices etc. for IT services and payments to staff in excess of £2,500. Those in the Light Touch category had to supply the same information but additionally had to supply invoices/receipts, etc. for the costs of printing and postage. Counting Officers in the Full Scrutiny category were required to supply receipts/invoices, etc. for all their expenditure associated with the referendum. A risk based approach was adopted to selecting which category a CO would be placed in. This was supplemented by a system of random selection. View a full list of the category of scrutiny allocated to each voting area.  Any CO exceeding the MRA was automatically subjected to a full scrutiny review.

Once the ECU had scrutinised a claim and all queries were resolved, we were responsible for approving the final settlement and raising the payment of the remaining balance to the CO, or requesting any reimbursement of funds that might be due.  Where the final amount agreed was greater than the MRA, final payment was subject to approval by the Treasury.

The cost of the referendum

The overall cost of the referendum was £129.128m. This includes:

  • Electoral Commission costs
  • costs of mailings for the designated lead campaigners
  • Regional Counting Officer (RCO) and Counting Officer (CO) costs

Electoral Commission costs

Our role

At a referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), we are responsible for:

  • commenting on the intelligibility of the referendum question
  • registering organisations or individuals who want to campaign in the referendum
  • considering and approving applications for designation as the lead campaign group for each referendum outcome
  • making grant payments to the approved designated organisations
  • monitoring spending on referendum campaigning, in line with the referendum spending limits imposed by PPERA
  • providing advice and guidance on the rules to campaigners
  • monitoring and securing compliance with campaign donation, loan and spending controls
  • promoting public awareness of the referendum, its subject matter, and how to vote in it
  • reporting on the administration of the referendum and referendum campaign spending

Ahead of the EU referendum, we ran a multimedia public awareness campaign to give people the essential information they needed to take part. Our activity, aimed at all voters, began on 15 May 2016. It included advertising, a voting guide, public relations and partnership activities.

At the EU referendum, the Chair of the Commission was the Chief Counting Officer (CCO) with responsibility for the conduct of the referendum and for ensuring the accuracy of the overall result. The CCO’s role involved:

  • a power of direction over RCOs and COs relating to preparations for the referendum and the discharge of their functions
  • certifying and declaring the total number of ballots counted and the total number of votes cast in favour of each answer to the question in the referendum

Funding

We are accountable to the UK Parliament for our expenditure. In accordance with PPERA, we are required to submit our budget in the form of a Parliamentary Estimate each financial year to the Speaker’s Committee. After review, the Speaker’s Committee lays the Estimate before the House of Commons. These Estimates are the means by which we seek authority from Parliament for our spending each year.

In accordance with the EU Referendum Act 2015, we were also able to draw down funds for:

  • RCOs’ and COs’ expenses and services
  • the delivery of campaign information by the designated lead organisations
  • sweeps by the Royal Mail on polling day

These are all funded directly from the Consolidated Fund and are therefore outside the Commission’s Estimate.

Referendum costs

Our total expenditure for the EU Referendum was £129.090m.

£m2015-162016-172017-18Total
Lead campaigner grants0.0001.2000.0001.200
EC public awareness
(a credit is shown for public awareness in 2017-18 due to the reciept of a credit note from the advertiser)
0.8025.252-0.0296.025
EC staffing and operational costs0.2871.4630.2231.973
RCO and CO fees and charges0.00094.5410.00094.541
Royal Mail costs0.00025.3890.00025.398
Total1.089127.8450.94129.128

The Electoral Commission is not VAT registered therefore all costs shown are inclusive of VAT where applicable.

Further details of our activity, performance and use of financial resources (including detailed financial statements) can be found in our Annual Report, which is published yearly.

Costs of mailings for the designated lead campaigners

We had a statutory duty to appoint designated lead campaign groups for each side of the referendum campaign. We could designate for one side of the debate only, or for neither side if we received no applicants for an outcome or if we were not satisfied that any of the applicants adequately represented those supporting a particular outcome. Registered campaigners could apply to be designated lead campaign groups.

On 13 April 2016, we designated:

  • The In Campaign Ltd (also known as Britain Stronger in Europe) as the lead campaigner for the Remain outcome
  • Vote Leave Ltd as the lead campaigner for the Leave outcome.

Lead campaign groups have certain benefits in addition to those given to registered campaigners, including the sending of a referendum address to each elector or each household in the referendum area. This is a statutory entitlement under Section 110(4) of PPERA.

From the non-voted funds allocated for the EU Referendum, the largest actual expenditure we incurred, excluding RCOs and COs’ fees and charges, was for the provision of mailings on behalf of the designated lead campaigners. This covered the cost of delivering campaign materials, not the cost of producing those materials, which the campaigners met themselves.

The table below shows details of this cost by campaign group:

Designated lead campaignerNumber of deliveriesCost (£m)
Vote Leave44,936,14212.942
Britain Stronger in Europe
(Britain Stronger in Europe was the campaign name for The In Campaign Ltd)
40,760,71911.739

Royal Mail costs

We used the services of Royal Mail Ltd as the universal service provider to deliver the designated lead campaigners’ mailings. Funding was provided from the Consolidated Fund for both the Leave and Remain designated organisations to exercise their statutory entitlement to send a referendum address to every household or elector.

Final day sweeps and International Business Response Licences also incurred costs. Final day sweeps take place on polling day, when Royal Mail check their sorting offices for postal vote packs that have been posted very close to, or on, polling day. The sweeps ensure that those votes are delivered to the relevant CO before the close of the poll, so that they can be included in the count. The costs incurred in relation to the International Business Response Licence were to enable overseas electors to be able to return their votes on a “reply-paid” basis.

The total cost amounted to £25.389m. The table below shows a detailed breakdown of this cost:

Description
Cost (£m)
(All costs are inclusive of VAT at 20%)
Campaign mailings24.681
Adminstration fee0.444
Final day sweeps0.202
International Business Response Licence (overseas voters)0.063
Total25.389

Regional Counting Officer and Counting Officer costs

The role of Regional Counting Officers and Counting Officers

Our Chair as CCO for the referendum appointed an RCO for each of the 11 electoral regions in Great Britain. Appointments were generally based upon officers who had been designated by the Secretary of State as Regional Returning Officers for electoral regions at the 2014 European Parliamentary elections.

The RCOs were responsible for co-ordinating the planning and administration of the poll across their electoral region and for managing the collation of the local totals into a total for the electoral region. They were also responsible for reporting those totals to the CCO to feed into the UK-wide result.

In Great Britain, appointment as Counting Officer flowed automatically from appointment as local government Returning Officer. Each local authority is required to appoint a senior officer who acts as the Returning Officer for local elections in that authority’s area. For the purposes of the referendum in Great Britain, the local authority area was known as the voting area. Each local authority was a separate voting area.

In Northern Ireland, the CO for the Northern Ireland voting area was the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland.

COs were personally responsible for the conduct of the referendum. The role of the CO was to ensure that the referendum was administered effectively in their voting area. This included managing the conduct of the poll, counting the votes and transmitting the local area totals to the RCO.

COs and RCOs were also personally responsible for the expenditure incurred for the purpose of conducting the referendum in their voting areas, and for preparing and submitting the accounts relating to their own activities.

Regional Counting Officers' costs

The role of an RCO included planning and coordination at a regional level, managing the collation of regional count totals and reporting those totals to the CCO.

The Charges Order (The European Union Referendum (Counting Officers and Regional Counting Officers Charges) Regulations 2016) specified that RCOs were entitled to a fixed fee of £12,000 for their services. All RCOs claimed the fee for their services in full at a total cost of £132,000.

RCOs were also entitled to recover the expenses necessarily incurred in relation to their duties. The Charges Order specified the Maximum Recoverable Amount (MRA) which could be claimed by each RCO for expenses, £320,486 in total.

Following scrutiny of all claims, the total cost for expenses was £259,445, an underspend of £61,041 (13%). Ten RCOs spent less than their allocated MRA and one RCO exceeded the MRA.

Of the total cost for expenses, RCOs spent £151,303 on administering the regional element of the result collation and the remainder (£108,142) on other costs.

MRATotal cost
Services£132,000£132,000
Expenses£320,486£259,445
Total£452,486£391,445

Counting Officers’ costs

The Charges Order listed what a CO could claim in respect of services and expenses. Overall, the total MRA which COs could claim was £2,078,342 for services and £99,649,604 for expenses, a total of £101,727,946.

Following settlement of all claims, the cost was £2,073,163 for CO services, with £5,179 CO fees unclaimed, and £92,076,530 for expenses, a total of £94,149,693. This represented an underspend of £7,578,253 (7%).

MRATotal cost
Services£2,078,342£2,073,163
Expenses£99,649,604£92,076,530
Total£101,727,946£94,149,693

287 COs spent less than their allocated MRA, 93 exceeded the MRA and two spent their exact allocation. 208 claims fell within a range of +/- 10% of the MRA, while 353 claims fell within a range of +/- 25% of the MRA.

We will be undertaking some further analysis of spend compared to the performance of COs to try to ascertain if there is any discernible link between performance and expenditure. Our focus will be on count expenditure and will take into account factors such as:

  • numbers of staff used
  • numbers of ballot papers counted
  • recorded times of key stages of the count process

We intend to use this information to help us to identify and subsequently share examples of good practice to support the counting of votes at future electoral events.

Counting Officers' expenses

The Order set a Maximum Recoverable Amount (MRA) for expenses for each voting area. An advance of 75% of the MRA for expenses was paid to each CO from April 2016, with the balance paid on settlement of their claim.

CO expenses, covered by the MRA, included the costs of providing and paying staff, conducting the referendum and the count and all the ancillary activities necessary to discharge the COs functions.

Polling station costs

The total spent by COs on polling stations was £39.456 million.

The average cost of providing a polling station across the UK (including Gibraltar) was £961. There were significant variations between different parts of the UK, ranging from an average of £828 in Northern Ireland to £1,586 in London.

Expenditure on polling stations includes:

  • the costs of both permanent and temporary venues to house 41,050 polling stations across the UK and Gibraltar at the referendum (£8.308 million)
  • the costs of equipment used in polling stations such as polling booths, ballot boxes, stationery and notices (£1.303 million)
  • the costs of preparing and transporting equipment for use in polling stations (£3.487 million)
  • the costs of printing ballot papers (£2.837 million)
  • payments made to the 107,100 polling station staff and staff who supervised polling stations (£23.521 million). This includes costs associated with training those staff in advance of polling day
DescriptionCost (£m)
Presiding Officers8.901
Poll Clerks9.307
Supervising officers1.323
Travel and subsistence0.858
Training3.131
Accommodation: permanent6.455
Accommodation: temporary1.854
Preparation and transport3.487
Equipment1.303
Printing ballot papersz2.837
Total£39.456

Postal vote costs

There were 8.488 million registered postal voters at the referendum. A total of 8.536 million postal ballot packs, including replacement ballot packs, were issued across the UK by COs. 7.476 million votes were returned.

The total spent by COs on postal votes was £19.383 million. The average cost per postal voter was £2.28 and the average cost per postal vote returned was £2.59.

Expenditure on postal votes includes:

  • the cost of printing and postage (both outward and return – postal voters are given a pre-paid return envelope) (£13.904m)
  • payments made to staff working on the issue, receipt and checking of postal votes, including training (£3.589m)
  • the costs, where applicable, of venues used to house the postal vote operation (£0.913m)
  • the costs of equipment used in issuing, receiving and checking postal votes such as insertion machines, letter openers and scanning machines for checking dates of birth and signatures (£0.977m)
DescriptionCost (£m)
Staff: preparation and issue0.602
Staff: opening and verification 2.953
Training0.033
Printing and stationary5.672
Postage: outbound4.624
Postage: inbound3.609
Accommodation 0.913
Equipment0.977
Total£19.383m

Poll card costs

Poll cards were issued to each of the 46.5 million registered electors at the referendum at a total cost of £15.485 million.

Expenditure on poll cards includes:

  • the cost of printing and delivering poll cards to all electors (£15.259m)
  • the cost of payments to staff involved in this exercise (£0.161m)
  • equipment costs (£0.065m)
DescriptionCost (£m)
Staff: preparation0.161
Equipment0.065
Printing and stationary2.003
Postage or delivery13.256
Total£15.485

Count costs

The total spent by COs on the count was £12.557 million. The average cost per elector across the UK for administering the count was £0.27. This ranged from £0.20 in Wales to £0.47 in Scotland.

Expenditure on the count includes:

  • the costs of venues to house the counts, including venue security costs (£2.889m)
  • the costs of transporting ballot papers from polling stations to count centres (£0.718m)
  • the costs of equipment used at count centres (£0.666m)
  • payments made to 51,000 count centre staff – this includes travel and subsistence and costs associated with training those staff (£8.283m)
DescriptionCost (£m)
Count staff5.454
Supervising staff2.552
Travel and subsistence0.098
Training0.179
Accommodation2.583
Equipment0.666
Transport0.718
Security0.306
Total£12.557

Other costs

The total spent by COs on other costs was £5.195 million.

This category includes:

  • costs of staff employed on clerical and administrative support to the CO throughout the referendum period (i.e. not specifically related to the specific exercises covered above)
  • costs of materials and services that could not be accounted for under other categories of expenditure, such as costs of printing statutory and other notices, general stationery, general postage, software licence fees, telephone bills and bank charges
DescriptionCost (£m)
General clerical2.851
Travel and subsistence0.036
Providing training0.696
Materials and services1.605
Nominations0.000
Translation: Welsh0.001
Legal advice0.006
Staff superannuarion0.000
Total£5.195

Counting Officers' services

The Charges Order provided for COs to recover an MRA for the services specified in the Order which included conducting the referendum, discharging the COs duties at the referendum and making arrangements for the referendum.

The Maximum Recoverable Amount (MRA) was calculated based on the number of electors in the voting area for which the CO was responsible. We had the power to reduce or remit the fee of any COs if we considered they had not performed their services adequately. View our procedure for evaluating performance of services.

Fees for services

To ensure that payment was related to overall satisfactory performance of the duties by RCOs and COs, including timely submission of accounts, we made clear the separation between claims for expenses and claims for the fee for services. 75% of the CO’s specified fee for their services was paid immediately following the poll. The remaining portion of each CO’s fee was paid after submission and clearance of their claim, subject to their satisfactory performance. No CO was considered to have performed unsatisfactorily and therefore none of the fees were withheld.

Details of payments made to COs for their services can be found in Appendix B.

Superannuation

The regulations which govern superannuation payments are the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) in England and Wales and of the Scottish Government in Scotland.

While fees paid to Returning Officers at elections are pensionable, currently fees for CO duties are not. The current regulations do not provide for superannuation payments to be made in relation to the fees of a CO at a referendum (as opposed to an RO at an election).

Insurance and indemnity

COs already had their own arrangements to insure themselves against any risks they face in taking forward their statutory duties at elections. In many cases the local authorities’ own insurance arrangements for elections would contain provisions enabling cover to be extended to cover referendums.

COs were therefore asked to check what cover they had in place. It was recognised that, while the local authority insurance may cover certain risks, COs may also be liable for claims of a type not covered by existing insurance policies.

As a result we arranged through Parliament for a specific indemnity for the referendum to be provided to RCOs and COs to supplement any insurance policies that already existed locally. This indemnity would only come into force where existing insurance cover had been exhausted by the CO i.e. all claims should, in the first instance, be met by existing policies. In the event, no claims were made by RCOs or COs under the indemnity arrangement.

Lessons learned

We had hoped that the categorisation of claims and the associated levels of scrutiny would have enabled those COs in the lower categories of plain accounts and light touch, to submit their completed claims well in advance of the 23 December deadline. This would have enabled the ECU to start examining and processing larger numbers of claims much earlier than proved to be the case in practice. In fact, the ECU received the majority of claims in the last few weeks before the deadline.

The calling of the early UK Parliamentary General Election for June 2017 also led to time being lost in considering claims. For the period before and immediately after that poll, COs and their key staff were necessarily involved in administering the election. We therefore asked ECU to pause their work in following up on observations and outstanding queries with COs during this period.

The large number of claims that exceeded the MRA was another unforeseen factor that lead to a delay in completing the claims process. Overall 94 claims out of 393 (24% of the total) were in excess of the MRA, requiring RCOs and COs to submit business cases to justify their expenditure. Each claim that exceeded the MRA immediately went into the full scrutiny category, requiring the provision of further evidence from RCOs and COs. Each claim then had to be presented for consideration to the Treasury prior to finally agreeing settlement.  As a comparison, at the 2011 Referendum on the UK Parliamentary Voting System, only four RCOs and COs (1% of the total) submitted claims that exceeded the MRA. Although the overall settlement was close to the overall total MRA, the variances for individual COs suggests that further analysis needs to be undertaken by the UK Government to achieve a more accurate allocation of funding for future electoral events.

We will review the processes involved in processing and settling claims now that all claims have been settled. We will feedback to Cabinet Office the lessons learnt from this review, to enable them to reflect these in the processes they follow for future elections.

Summary data

Regional Counting Officers' expenses

Region Funding allocation (MRA) (£) Actual expenditure (£) +/- (£)
East Midlands 22,383.00 21,845.20 537.80
Eastern 22,670.00 30,300.00 -7,630.00
London 22,861.00 18,137.42 4,723.58
North East 10,019.00 9,978.09 40.91
North West 55,910.00 45,177.33 10,732.67
Scotland 43,794.00 43,766.05 27.95
South East 36,520.00 19,900.95 16,619.05
South West and Gibraltar 35,000.00 18,136.96 16,863.04
Wales 38,118.00 24,579.17 13,538.83
West Midlands 22,273.00 19,681.53 2,591.47
Yorkshire and the Humber 10,938.00 7,942.45 2,995.55
Total320,486.00259,445.1561,040.85

Counting Officers' expenses

Counting Officers' expenses

Region Funding allocation for expenses (MRA) (£) Actual expenditure (£) +/- (£)
East Midlands 7,170,798 6,524,485 646,313
Eastern 8,613,431 7,922,373 691,058
London 12,023,242 12,865,583 -842,341
Northern Ireland 3,292,686 2,579,076 713,610
North East 4,130,203 3,691,992 438,211
North West 10,937,858 9,661,359 1,276,499
Scotland 12,166,220 9,818,505 2,347,715
South East 12,220,262 11,923,666 296,596
South West 8,371,085 8,006,517 364,568
Wales 4,911,921 4,441,805 470,116
West Midlands 8,315,347 7,461,687 853,660
Yorkshire and the Humber 7,496,551 7,179,484 317,067
Total99,649,60492,076,5307,573,072

Counting Officers' expenses by category

Region Polling stations (£000) Postal voting (£000) Poll cards (£000) Count (£000) Other (£000) Total (£000)
East Midlands 2,676 1,440 1,167 769 472 6,524
Eastern 3,460 1,701 1,451 902 408 7,922
London 5,955 2,346 1,794 2,138 632 12,866
Northern Ireland 1,142 62 422 493 460 2,579
North East 1,411 1,161 552 397 171 3,692
North West 3,926 2,232 1,753 1,311 440 9,662
Scotland 4,210 1,980 1,376 1,864 388 9,819
South East 4,817 2,645 2,325 1,463 674 11,924
South West 3,433 1,722 1,430 964 457 8,007
Wales 2,084 913 753 444 249 4,442
West Midlands 3,277 1,506 1,216 1,013 451 7,462
Yorkshire and the Humber 3,066 1,675 1,247 797 394 7,179
Total39,45619,38315,48512,5575,19592,077

Counting Officers' expenses per elector and votes cast

Per elector/vote costs by elecoral region

Region Total expenses (£)Electorate Votes cast Cost per elector Cost per vote
East Midlands 6,524,485 3,384,299 2,510,496 1.93 2.60
Eastern 7,922,373 4,398,796 3,331,312 1.80 2.38
London 12,865,583 5,424,768 3,781,204 2.37 3.40
Northern Ireland 2,579,076 1,260,955 790,523 2.05 3.26
North East 3,691,992 1,934,341 1,341,387 1.91 2.75
North West 9,661,359 5,241,568 3,668,627 1.84 2.63
Scotland 9,818,505 3,987,112 2,681,179 2.46 3.66
South East 11,923,666 6,465,404 4,963,110 1.84 2.40
South West 8,006,517 4,138,134 3,174,909 1.93 2.52
Wales 4,441,805 2,270,272 1,628,054 1.96 2.73
West Midlands 7,461,687 4,116,572 2,965,369 1.81 2.52
Yorkshire and the Humber 7,179,484 3,877,780 2,741,172 1.85 2.62
Total92,076,48046,500,00133,577,3421.982.74

Per elector/vote costs by category

Category Total cost (£m) Electorate (millions) Votes cast (millions) Cost per elector (£) Cost per vote (£)
Counting Officer services 2.073 46.500 33.577 0.04 0.06
Polling stations
(Excludes electors registered to vote by post)
39.456 38.012 26.101 1.04 1.51
Postal votes
(Only includes electors registered to vote by post)
19.383 8.488 7.476 2.28 2.59
Poll cards 15.485 46.500 33.577 0.33 0.46
The count 12.557 46.500 33.577 0.27 0.37
Other costs 5.195 46.500 33.577 0.11 0.15

Elector costs by category

Category Total cost (£) Electors (millions) Cost per elector (£)
Poll cards (printing) 2.003 46.500 0.04
Poll cards (delivery 13.256 46.500 0.29
Ballot papers (printing) 2.837 38.012 0.07
Postal ballots (printing) 5.672 8.488 0.67
Postal ballots (delivery) 4.624 8.488 0.54
Postal ballots (return) 3.609 8.488 0.43

Breakdown of expenditure by each Regional Counting Officer and Counting Officer

Regional Counting Officers' data

RCO RCO services Count costs Other costs
East Midlands £12,000 £13,958  £7,887
Eastern £12,000 £15,750  £14,550
London £12,000  £11,387 £6,750
North East £12,000  £6,933 £3,045
North West £12,000 £33,671  £11,506
Scotland £12,000  £43,766 -
South East £12,000  £1,570 £18,331
South West £12,000  £8,076 £10,061
Wales £12,000 £3,307 £21,273
West Midlands £12,000  £9,682 £10,000
Yorkshire and the Humber £12,000  £3,203  £4,740
Total£132,000£151,303£108,142

Counting Officers' data

Download the full table of Counting Officers' data.

Elections and referendums