The cost of a by-election

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Is there a new tax on democracy?

Following the sudden resignation of Lord Ampthill, a vacancy arose on Rye Town Council.

No fewer than 10 people expressed an interest in becoming councillors. At a time when many local councils have vacancies that they cannot fill, this seems unusual and commendable. Democracy is alive and thriving in Rye.

The natural outcome in a democracy would seem to be a by-election. Any 10 electors can call for a by-election and Rother District Council can charge the Town for the reasonable costs of holding such an election. Note the words ‘can’ and ‘reasonable’.

Given Rother’s whopping estimate of the charge, (for an electorate of some 3000 and 2 polling stations), nobody, understandably, wanted to incur that cost. So for the first time in many years, the vacancy was filled by co-option and the selection made by 13 councillors.

What would be a reasonable charge for an election? Let’s see the arithmetic before embarking on the co-option route another time. I have made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to Rother to estimate a charge for a by- election and, most importantly, break it down into its component parts, helpfully listed in a paper produced by the National Association of Local Councils.

I made the FOI request publicly on the website ‘WhatDoTheyKnow?’ where anybody may read it, follow its progress - and do the maths!

Cllr Mary Smith. Rye Town Councillor.