By-election blunder costs Renfrewshire taxpayers £16k with council bosses still totting up final bill

A botched Renfrewshire by-election has cost taxpayers at least £16,000 with council bosses still waiting for another bill to come through the door, the Express can reveal.

Council chiefs were embarrassingly forced to scrap the poll in the Paisley Southeast ward last month even after postal votes had been sent out and some mailed back.

And it has now emerged the blunder has cost £15,823 so far.

The council is still waiting on another invoice from Royal Mail for the return of postal votes which elected members have suggested could increase costs “significantly”.

Labour councillor Alison Dowling said it was a “shocking” mistake that could dent people’s confidence in the council.

She said: “It’s shocking this money has been wasted.

“Of course, the other side of the coin is costs have been incurred by the candidates themselves as well.

“At a time when you are trying to encourage democratic participation across all parties, these few people who have stood up to be counted in their local areas have now incurred significant expenses they will not get back.

“The other area of concern is around people’s confidence in the council to hold a credible election.

“We know for local elections that turnout can be a lot lower than for national elections and all parties have been trying to address that.

“For a mistake of this level to happen just before local elections is extremely disappointing and there will be significant costs still to come from this.”

Paul Mack has been a councillor for more than 25 years
(Image: Paisley Daily Express)

The printing and postage of ballot papers and postal vote packs cost a whopping £8,510, according to a breakdown supplied by the council.

Royal Mail has already sent an invoice for £1,243 with another to come, while the sending of letters to voters came in at £2,265.

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The council has had to fork out £2,750 in legal costs, £168 for building services overtime, £175 for legal caveat costs, £165 for electoral registration office costs, £497 for document solution centre printing and £50 in venue costs.

The by-election – which had been due to take place tomorrow – was called after Paul Mack was disqualified from the council for directing a hate campaign at colleagues.

But the controversial politician lodged an appeal against his ban in the Court of Session, which the council was somehow unaware of and had earlier ruled there was nothing to stop a poll from being carried out.

Returning officer Ken Graham then had to send out a letter of apology to candidates stating the by-election would now not happen, even at a later date.

Renfrewshire Council was forced to apologise to voters after the embarrassing error
(Image: Andrew Neil)

Councillor Eddie Devine, who heads up the Labour group, added: “This is a cost that should never have happened.

“I would imagine this is quite a basic error. The council should’ve known the person [Paul Mack] had somewhere else to go.”

Councillor Eddie Devine
(Image: internet)

An update on the final cost is expected to be issued to councillors as soon as it becomes clear.

A Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “Renfrewshire’s returning officer issued his sincere apology to candidates, agents and local voters for the disruption, disappointment and inconvenience caused by the cancellation of the Paisley Southeast by-election, explaining the reason behind this decision in a full statement at that time.

“Since then, the returning officer has liaised with the Electoral Commission to take all appropriate practical steps to bring the election process to an end, with letters issued to all constituents and confirming the cost impact of the cancellation to elected members.”

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Daily Record – Paisley