Elvery considers staging election count at separate venues

The count for the three Croydon parliamentary constituencies at next May’s General Election could be held at three separate venues.

Trinity School crestThat’s according to Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, who will be trying to retain his parliamentary seat in Croydon Central, the borough’s one marginal seat.

Given the problems encountered at the count for the local and European elections last May, when they were all held at a single venue, some might think that Croydon Council’s returning officer is heading for triple trouble by using separate counting halls.

Barwell is an Old Boy of Trinity School, and is chairman of the school’s governors. And Trinity School has been the venue for the count at Croydon’s most recent elections. This, apparently, has never been seen as an issue for the returning officer, who happens to be the entrepreneurial council chief executive, Nathan Elvery.

Others have criticised the council spending public money by hiring a minor public school for the purpose. “It’s like having the vote in Barwell’s front room,” one election candidate said earlier this year.

“Someone on the council needs to explain why the only place they can find to hold Croydon’s election count is a posh private school which has close ties to Barwell and senior Tory councillors,” they said.

In Croydon in 2015, the General Election will see Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Lambeth South, apparently assured of his re-election, while millionaire Tory Party donor Chris Philp has been parachuted in by the Conservatives for the formality of taking over Croydon South from the expenses expert, “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway.

According to Barwell, “Council can’t find alternative venue that can do all three, so they’ll be in different places, which is a shame.”

Presumably it’s “a shame” because the generous hire fee from the public purse to subsidise his private school – estimated at around £10,000 – won’t be boosting their budget this year.

Croydon Council CEO and returning officer  David Brent: any resemblance to Nathan Elvery is entirely coincidental

Croydon Council CEO and returning officer David Brent: any resemblance to Nathan Elvery is entirely coincidental

According to a Town Hall source, the council is not yet satisfied with security provision at venues away from Trinity School. Three separate counts might mean three times the number of police on duty (ahh, the overtime!), probably three different hire fees, and it will also increase the number of tellers required.

That Croydon Council cannot find any suitable venue from its own stock of public buildings does not say much for the planning and commissioning of Fisher’s Folly, the town centre council offices which were built by the Tories at a cost to the public of £144 million, plus an extra £80million in borrowing, yet is not judged to be capable to staging such an important civic function.

Last May’s local elections were the first under the direct supervision of Elvery. Held at Trinity School, the count, with votes for all 24 wards and the European elections being handled simultaneously, came in for widespread criticism, with the results being delivered late and with several errors.

Expected to be completed routinely before 3am on the Friday after the election, the count dragged on past 9am, with experienced observers suggesting that too few tellers, and too few with the necessary experience, were on hand to deal with the volume of work. It was several days before full results without any errors were made available.

Elvery is paid around £20,000 for his role as returning officer, to ensure the smooth and fair conduct of local elections in the borough, from the organising of the polling stations and their staff to delivering accurate and timely results.

“After May’s performance, when he couldn’t organise a count at a single venue, what makes him think he could manage three separate venues for the much higher profile parliamentary elections?” a Katharine Street insider said.

“Let’s just say that if he was organising our office Christmas do at a brewery, I wouldn’t be certain there would be any beer on tap.”

Indeed, Croydon has had issues with the staging of elections in the borough for a number of years, dating back at least to 2010, when many voters were unable to exercise their democratic rights because polling stations were unable to cope with the queues of voters which formed in the final minutes before they were due to close at 10pm.

In 2015, if the Croydon counts are split, it will surely see the focus of media and voters’ attention on Croydon Central, since the other constituencies are foregone conclusions – although that might mean missing the entertainment value of seeing UKIP’s Winston McKenzie losing his deposit in Croydon North.

“Nothing’s decided yet,” our source said of the decision to hold separate counts, “but Elvery can do what he wants.” A situation which will leave anyone who believes in democratic checks and balances more than a little concerned.

Coming to Croydon


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Gavin Barwell, Nathan Elvery, Richard Ottaway MP, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Elvery considers staging election count at separate venues

  1. Mary Wolf says:

    Why doesn’t Fairfield Halls suit anymore?

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