Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan and First Minister Carwyn Jones have jointly welcomed agreement from HM Treasury to fund the costs of the Electoral Commission’s work on the referendum to decide whether law-making powers should be devolved to Wales. Mrs Gillan told Mr Jones today that the costs to the Electoral Commission for overseeing the referendum in Wales, estimated at up to £2.7million, would not have to be found from within the Welsh budget. Mrs Gillan said Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had agreed to her request that, instead, the Electoral Commission costs could be met from the UK Consolidated Fund.
Mrs Gillan said: “After receiving representations from the First Minister, I wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to say I thought it was reasonable for the Treasury to meet the costs of the Electoral Commission for overseeing the referendum. The First Minister had already indicated the Welsh Assembly Government was prepared to meet the costs of administering the referendum itself.
“I am very pleased to confirm that Danny Alexander has now agreed that the costs of the Electoral Commission should be met through the UK Consolidated Fund. This is a very good result for Wales and is yet another example of the respect agenda at work between the Government and the devolved administrations.
“I hope that this agreement will further assist Wales Office and Welsh Assembly officials as they work together on the remaining stages of the Referendum Order, which I understand is making good progress to enable the referendum to be held by the end of the first quarter of next year.”
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Following suggestions that the Welsh Consolidated Fund should bear those costs, I wrote to the Secretary of State setting out detailed arguments why that was not appropriate; today’s decision confirms that those arguments have been accepted.”
The Electoral Commission is currently undertaking a 10-week period of work to assess the intelligibility of the proposed referendum question. The Commission’s estimated costs of up to £2.7million relate to this work, plus also:
- preparing guidance and advice for counting officers;
- assessing and preparing a report on the administration of the referendum;
- providing grants to the designated organisations (the lead “yes” and “no” campaigns);
- promoting public awareness of the referendum and voter turn-out;
- analysing campaign expenditure for compliance with the rules and investigating complaints; and
- collating and declaring the result of the referendum.