Real Zorro

Mission - to challenge in East Devon. To hold elected representatives & their officials to account.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

East Devon - one man, three jobs. What can possibly go wrong!

Zorro is not usually someone who criticises the staff who work for a council but sometimes you have to question the ability and competence of people when things don’t go well.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) shares a Chief Executive with South Somerset District Council. One man, Mark Williams, two important jobs. Or is it two jobs? No, Mark Williams is also, in his spare time the electoral Returning Officer for East Devon. So, it’s one man, three important jobs!

Zorro has turned his attention to Mark Williams because he is responsible, presumably in his spare time, for the smooth running of local and national elections within East Devon. East Devon’s electoral affairs were placed under scrutiny by a Parliamentary Select Committee last year. This was all to do with the fact that some 6,000 electors had fallen off of East Devon’s electoral roll.

Mark Williams was summoned to the Select Committee  following a report by the Electoral Commission which identified EDDC as falling short of canvassing requirements to register households in person ahead of changes to the registration format in June last year.

As the East Devon Returning Officer he was responsible for how the local electoral activity was undertaken. This issue was covered by Pulmans View at the time -

Now Mark Williams, as Returning Officer, has hit the headlines again. And again, not for the right reasons. Postal voters in the EDDC elections have now been given the wrong advice about completing their ballot papers. So far it appears that information correcting this wrong advice has not been widely distributed amongst electors.

The local press have covered this latest embarrassing debacle:

This situation is very worrying as it isn’t the first time that a local election has had to be run. Zorro cannot understand how or why the advice to voters this time has been got wrong. Perhaps the Returning Officer has been distracted by having to also run two District Councils!

Mind you, EDDC has not exactly been a beacon of efficiency and hasn’t been without its controversies over recent years. The latest, and ones that will be at the forefront of electors’ minds on 7 May, will be the lack of a Local Plan (still) and the intention to sell the District Council’s headquarters and to relocate it over a split site.

Zorro has predicted that the new District Council will not be Conservative controlled on 8 May. That prediction, more than ever, stands.

It seems to Zorro that one of the first actions that the new Council leadership will need to do is to have Mark Williams in and to discuss what he sees his future being. Too many things in East Devon haven’t gone smoothly and without controversy be it in elections or just the running of the District Council.

Things need to change! In so many ways.


  1. Being Returning Officer is actually Mark Williams' 4th job - he is also the Electoral Registration Officer, a job which is continuous unlike Returning Officer which is only at elections.

    The interesting thing about his Select Committee appearance is that he admitted publicly for the first time that he had not simply fallen short (or in Electoral Commission parlance, been "below standard") on Doorstep Canvassing, in fact he had not undertaken doorstep canvassing AT ALL for 4 YEARS. His explanation for this was that it was both unsafe (though apparently it IS safe in South Somerset) and uneconomic (though apparently it IS economic in South Somerset) and in any case not needed because he has all (or sufficient) voters registered at 95% of homes.

    But then in late 2014 he was forced to undertake a doorstep canvas by the Electoral Commission as part of IER and, surprise surprise, these resulted in several thousand more voters being registered.

    However, this did not seem to encourage him to concentrate on encouraging more people to register to vote, as his publicity of IER was difficult to spot, yet despite this a lot more people registered at the last minute - imagine how many more people would have registered if he had publicised it.

    Obviously, we now have an election actually underway - with postal votes already being opened. So, we have to wonder just how many more "mistakes" are being made (or attempted but spotted by East Devon Alliance election agents) by Mr Williams.

  2. What remarkable drivel. Of course it will be his fault, he is the head of the organisation, he will have to take responsibility even though he has a team...yes a team of people who just like you and me make mistakes. Is it presumed that he is the only one dealing with the election? Of course, a one man army, printing all of those postal votes, organising everything for potentially the biggest election in history? You sound like an angry man with one hand on his small gentleman's sausage, massaging it to your own ignorant ramblings, induced by a complete lack of knowledge of how these things are run.

    Was the situation not rectified almost immediately, the electoral commission not informed at once? To state - 'So far it appears that information correcting this wrong advice has not been widely distributed amongst electors.' is false and wrong. As this comment hasn't been amended in light of the truth, it would appear you don't actually care about the truth. Letters were sent out the next day explaining what had happened and offers of rectifying the issue immediately made. Oh, and it wasn't everyone in East Devon as you are making out LOL. Go and complain to the electoral comission if you have issues, don't make up lies Zorro. Zorro didn't stand for lies. Or should you be called Montero?

    It is quite obvious you are running a smear campaign Montero - you are just as bad as the Tories. Here is the audio from that meeting in parliament as well, so people can make up their own minds up without reading the tales, written in this 'blog'.

    The Real Zorro

  3. Thanks Anonymous. Real thoughtful challenge! Not!

  4. You are hilarious Zorro/Montero. Where is the comeback!

    The real Zorro, voting for an ex-Tory...who remarkably has voted against all housing policies for East Devon. One would assume its got nothing to do with her husband being an estate agent? No not at all.

    Or how the EDA can allow a certain Mr Booth to stand as a Councillor? The same Mr Booth who was found guilty of benefit fraud only 2 years ago?

    Although you probably already knew that Zorro.

    Pot kettle.