AV referendum cost £75 million

By Charles Maggs

Last year's referendum on whether the UK should adopt the alternative voting system for general elections cost the taxpayer £75 million, according to a report out today.

AV was comprehensively rejected by the electorate, with a vote of almost two to one in favour of maintaining the current first past the post system.

The £75 million bill was significantly less than the government had budgeted for, however.

Publishing a first-of-its-kind report today, Electoral Commission chair Jenny Watson called for tabs on the cost of polls to be kept regularly.

"The government should publish full details of the costs of recent and future polls as we have done for the May 2011 referendum," she said.

"This will enable the people running the polls – returning and counting officers – to use the information to ensure they are delivering best value for voters."

The build-up to the referendum caused tension within the coalition, with Liberal Democrats supporting a change, while the No campaign was broadly supported by the Conservatives.

Lib Dems felt that the No campaign tried to turn the vote into a referendum on leader Nick Clegg, whose support was very low at the time, by a string of personal attacks.

The report also suggested more notice should be given before elections get underway to improve efficiency.

"The government should also accept and implement the principle of agreeing funding legislation for polls by six months before polling day – rather than just four-and-a-half weeks in this case- to allow for proper planning," Watson added.