Belfast Telegraph

General Election: December poll to see election bill here hit £20m in decade

A row of ballot boxes (David Jones/PA)
A row of ballot boxes (David Jones/PA)

By Ian Jones

At least £1bn of public money has been spent on holding elections and referendums in the UK this decade, new analysis has found - with December's snap election set to push the figure even higher.

The combined cost of administering the 2010, 2015 and 2017 general elections, two nationwide referendums, further referendums in Scotland and Wales, plus a host of other polls, currently stands at an estimated minimum of £1.06bn.

The figures, which have been compiled by the PA news agency, show the impact on public expenditure of a run of polls unprecedented in recent history in their size and frequency.

Spending in Northern Ireland included:

l £2.84m on the 2010 general election.

l £4m on the 2017 general election.

l £3m on the 2011 Assembly elections.

l £5m on the 2016 Assembly elections.

l £4.7m on the 2017 Assembly elections.

l £254,632 on the 2018 West Tyrone by election caused by the resignation of Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff.

l £165,644 on the 2018 Recall Petition election that failed to unseat Ian Paisley MP.

Some of the biggest sums in the UK spent were:

l £129m on the 2016 EU referendum.

l £115m on the 2015 general election.

l £109m on the 2014 EU elections, with a further £152m budgeted for this year's unexpected EU elections.

Next month's election - the fourth this decade - is likely to add at least another £100m.

The cost of elections and referendums is met by central government, devolved administrations or local authorities.

Most money typically goes towards covering fees and expenses of returning officers, plus mailouts of literature such as candidates' election leaflets.

For example, at the 2015 general election, £73m was paid to returning officers for services and expenses, while £42m went on the delivery of mailings.

The total cost of polls so far this decade is likely to be even higher than the estimated £1.06bn, as this does not include the many local council elections and by-elections that have also taken place.

Overall, an estimated £349m has been spent administering general elections this decade, plus £260m on EU elections, £204m on nationwide referendums and £125m on elections for police and crime commissioners.

Polls for the devolved administrations have added an estimated £54m, the London mayor and assembly £40m, referendums in Scotland and Wales £22m, and English mayoral polls £3m.

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