Kerswell’s election count will get off to a very slow start

WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on a sad end to another Croydon tradition

Another decision by cash-strapped Croydon Council is responsible for the end of yet another tradition: Inside Croydon’s unrivalled and extensive dusk-to-dawn election night coverage of the count.

Poll sign: voting in the 2022 local elections begins from 7am tomorrow

That’s because Katherine Kerswell, the council chief exec and the returning officer for tomorrow’s borough-wide elections, has decided not to begin counting the votes until 5.30pm… on Friday.

No official reason has been offered by Kerswell for this decision, although Fisher’s Folly insiders suggest it is because the venue for the count, Trinity School, the £20,000 per pupil per year private school in Shirley, needs to use its sports halls that have been assigned for the election count during the school day on Friday.

Election day is tomorrow, with polling stations around the borough open from 7am to 10pm (use our widget at the bottom of this page with your postcode and address to check your correct polling station, and get a list of candidates for Mayor and in your ward).

In the past, the 10pm shutdown of polling stations has been followed by a rush of the ballot boxes to the count venue, and the start of – in the case of Croydon – a laboriously slow process of vote counting.

Count chief: Katherine Kerswell at last year’s by-election declaration

In 2014 and 2018, and at the General Elections of 2017 and 2019, the Croydon count set all kinds of records for being slower than other similar election authorities.

This will be Kerswell’s first borough-wide election in charge as Croydon’s Returning Officer (she oversaw last year’s council by-election votes, held on the same day as the London Mayoral election, with the count taking place in west London).

But it appears she has opted to follow some of the precedents set by her predecessor, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini.

So the decision was taken to hire the facilities at Trinity School, at a cost to Kerswell’s Returning Officer budget of at least £7,000.

That those facilities are inadequate to the purpose required is demonstrated not only because the counting halls are not available throughout May 6, but also because three different school buildings – two sports halls and a concert hall – will need to be used to conduct the counts for the 28 council wards and, for the first time, the count for Croydon’s elected Mayor.

Considering the hire cost, the inadequate counting hall space and Trinity School’s non-availability for an immediate count, questions will be raised once more about why the council is not using its own facilities to carry out this important election function: as well as being in the town centre and easier to get to for more people, it’s not as if the Fairfield Halls is being over-used these days… 

According to the council’s own figures, more than 350 council staff will be working on the election count, mostly through the night on Friday, and most of them on overtime rates paid for out of Kerswell’s Returning Officer budget.

There will be vote verification conducted from 10pm on the night of the election, Thursday, but the count proper will not start until after school’s out the following day.

And then, from 5.30pm, the only votes to be counted will be those from the Mayoral election.

That could be a double-count process.

Ward-by-ward, electors’ first preference votes will be counted. Once these are all checked and verified, and any requests for a recount submitted, if no candidate has 50per cent or more of the vote then the second preferences of six of the candidates – those who were placed third to seventh, plus Winston McKenzie – will be sorted and counted, and added to the top two where appropriate, until there is a final tally.

Kerswell has decided that it will not be until after the identity of Croydon’s first elected Mayor is decided, announced and all the speeches made that her battalion of election assistants will roll up their sleeves and start the count for the borough’s 70 elected councillors. Best-guess when that could be is close to chucking out time on Friday night.

It could be breakfast time on Saturday morning, May 7, before the final ballot papers and ward tallies are all declared.

That, at least, could ensure that Croydon keeps another of its less-than-proud records: of being the slowest of all London boroughs to finish its local election count.

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About insidecroydon

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 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell, Trinity School and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Kerswell’s election count will get off to a very slow start

  1. Louise Teal says:

    The other precedent Kerswell is following as set by her predecessor, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini is that like Negrini, Kerswell too is useless.

    She has opted to spend £7000 renting a private school rather than use an existing Croydon facility. Ignorance, dim or couldn’t give a shit – can’t work out which one it is. Arrogant perhaps?

    • Rod Davies says:

      Can you suggest an alternative venue that has the space to efficiently carry out the counts for 3 parliamentary constituencies, with space to handle ballot box drop-offs safely; and where security can be managed? I don’t know of any.
      From my recollection the decision to use Trinity was made long before Ms Negrini appeared on the scene. I recall there was a short-lived return to Fairfield Halls a few years ago and I assume it did not work out well.

      • Booking a venue for an election count which is actually available on the day of and the day after the election is a pretty basic requirement, Rod.

        Trinity was first used, we think, in 2014.

        Fairfield Halls is not the only other option, but it is the most obvious alternative.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There are A Level exams taking place at Trinity on Friday morning – which would mean the Sports Hall will be in use.

  3. Pete Jenkins says:

    Fairfield was good enough since the 60s, apart from when it was swallowing all that renovation money, so as the article says, what is wrong with it now?

    • Good point Pete. Fairfield Halls probably isn’t suitable because of a botched renovation project by some incompetent halfwits (either that or they were corrupt).

      However, there are plenty of other schools with large assembly halls and gyms that could be hired for a lot less than the £7k or whatever it is we’re forking out to keep Trinity’s coffers overflowing. It’s not as if the borough has got money to burn, due to the practices of those seeking re-election and their colleagues who have fled.

      The Council’s “Tenders and Contracts Regulations – July 2019” say, under paragraph 11.2.1, that for all contracts with an estimated value of up to £10,000, there should be “preferably two written quotations both to be from (a) local supplier using the Council’s Business Directory (if possible)”.

      It goes on, “where the procurement route will not follow Regulation 11.2.1, a waiver is
      required as set out in Regulation 19. The Director of C&P may approve a list of
      general exemptions for circumstances where it is not feasible or advantageous
      to seek written quotations or Waivers”.

      Regulation 19 appears to say “Where the value is under £100,000 any waivers must be signed by the relevant Director of the service area in consultation with either the Strategic
      Procurement or Sourcing Managers of the Central Buying Team”.

      We deserve an explanation on the circumstances surrounding the procurement of the ill-chosen venue of Trinity school. Does it stand up to scrutiny? Have all the requirements been met? Could we have paid less and got a quicker result to boot?

      We deserve answers. It’s our money

      • The issues with Trinity may well be the same at any other secondary school: exams.

        But the matter of whether any of this is subject to scrutiny may be a problem. Negrini’s position when she was Returning Officer was that how she arranged public elections – and how much she paid herself – was none of the public’s business, but a “private” matter.

        And Newman and his numpties never batted an eyelid.

        • Ian Kierans says:

          And therein lies the issues with Public Administration. Executives are Public Officers paid from the Public Purse and should be held accountable to the Public by all people elected not just the ruling party.

  4. richard pyatt says:

    YET another instance of Croydon’s UTTERLY useless senior management and contempt for the people they are SUPPOSED TO represent only hope is a new independent mayor will be able to have a good clear out and get in staff who can do their jobs for a proper salary not an inflated one and start rebuilding this borough !!!!

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Nothing wrong with the Salary as long as there is value from the outlay, sadly results do not justify the outlay. All Executives should going forward have performance targets that relate to residents. Can you imagine if the Head of Planning had a target of zero losses at Court on planning decisions challenged by residents? At least half of all non compliance with planning conditions were forced to demolish? Service levels like phones answered within 5 minutes complaints acknowledged within 24 hours and answered within 28 days? FOI answered on time without evasion or avoidance – – Simple things –

      • James Patterson says:

        Is KK passive aggressive?
        Seems like it. No accountability, terrible communications, pulling strings in the background.

        If so, how did she get the permanent role?

  5. Lancaster says:

    Kerswell is, like the previous 3 incumbents, the definition of impotent. She held ‘Teams’ feedback sessions with staff when she arrived, soliciting feedback on good and bad practices. To date she has heard nothing, changed nothing and not acted on ANY of that feedback. But in her mind she has broken the culture of bullying, just by telling staff they should speak their truth. Meanwhile staff get bullied by her lackeys who have regular access to her and tell her what she wants to hear while keeping their staff sub-serviant.

  6. Billy James says:

    I will be taking a pen with me & not using the pencil provided when I go to vote….

    I would not trust these lot..

  7. Mr Dion Nicolaou says:

    Look, we all know it’s yet another case of mismanagement of funds, and to hold a count as important as this and as late as this when every other council has finished is completely unacceptable. It just shows how unprofessional and disorganised this council still is. To not find adequate size premises, and there are plenty of them, is a pathetic excuse. There was no need to delay the count, there was no need to use Trinity School and there was definitely no need to spend £7000 on a council that is already strapped for cash. Hopefully the result, if it ever comes through, will remove all of them and sweeping changes are made to Croydon Councils administrative structure and we actually get people in there that won’t waste our money, care for and listen to the people. If we don’t then believe me I’m going to run myself because I certainly know I can do a far better job than those in power now!

    • Whatever the election result, Ms Kerswell will still be in her job on Monday.
      She’s never subject to a public vote

      • Dion Nicolaou says:

        Everyone is answerable to someone. Who can sack her?

        • No one sacked Negrini.

          When Kerswell was sacked by Kent County Council, she waltzed away with a £400,000 pay-off.

          Sound familiar?

          • Dion Nicolaou says:

            Positive thinking! Negreedy quit, yes robbing us of a large sum, but hey, Kerswell could quit also, never say never. Stranger things have happened in Croydon! Croydon will recover, we will get what is needed and we be positive “Inside Croydon” A bit of confidence please!

          • Not sure that Negreedy did “quit”. Had she done so, there would have been no need of the £437,000 pay-off…

  8. Dion Nicolaou says:

    Yep true, sounds like a “golden handshake” to encourage her departure (or robbing the coffers and doing a runner) anyways, she’s gone and is history 👍

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