Elderly polling clerks given P45s over age concerns

Fife Council said there had been an "internal misunderstanding" which had resulted in some elderly polling clerks mistakenly receiving P45s. Picture: Michael Gillen
Fife Council said there had been an "internal misunderstanding" which had resulted in some elderly polling clerks mistakenly receiving P45s. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Elderly polling clerks with decades of experience have been given their cards - prompting allegations of ageism at the council which regularly employed them.

With the Scottish Parliament elections just days away the clerks, who worked in Fife, were shocked to be told their services would no longer be required.

One axed polling clerk is said to have worked on election counts in the county for half a century.

Independent charity Age Scotland - formerly Help the Aged and Age Concern - said that it was investigating claims by polling clerks who say they were told no one over the age of 75 could take part because they were “not as quick as they should be”.

A spokeswoman for Fife Council, which runs the counts, said the P45s were issued due to an “internal misunderstanding”.

With the Scottish Parliament elections looming on Thursday, a number of older people who have been involved in the running of elections for many years have contacted independent charity Age Scotland to complain about their treatment after suddenly being issued with P45s in the post.

Some claimed they were told that people over the age of 75 would no longer be able to be a polling clerk as they were “not as quick as they should be”.

Burntisland woman Ann Robertson - who is only 71 - said she was “hurt” to be told her duties were being dispensed with.

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Mrs Robertson, who has been involved in elections in various parts of Fife for 40 years, said she decided to contact Silver Line Scotland, a dedicated hotline providing support for older people,as she knew of others who have also been affected.

She said: “It was quite a shock.

“I’ve been doing this work for nearly 40 years so to be told that you can’t do it anymore -- I just felt quite hurt.

“I was told that everyone over 75 would no longer be able to do the job but if that’s the case then why was I given a P45 at the age of 71? I was then told the council had made a mistake and that we would get a letter returning us to the list, but it’s been two or three weeks now and I haven’t had anything.

“I’m annoyed at how we’ve been treated after so many years of service.”

Age Scotland said it was investigating and revealed it had also been contacted by a former council employee from Kinghorn who said she knew of at least three other people this has happened to - including one woman who has been a polling clerk for 50 years.

Linda Bissett, depute returning officer at Fife Council, said there were around 1,300 people on the authority’s database who have put themselves forward to work as polling staff, with 750 people normally needed.

She said there was a need for “succession planning” in order to ensure there was an adequate number of people with the necessary skills and experience for the future.

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She said: “There are a number of factors to take into consideration when choosing staff for these positions.

“We must look at their availability and willingness to work at any of our stations across Fife.

“We also consider any previous experience and the suitability of individuals to carry out the role.

“Unfortunately due to an internal misunderstanding this year, a number of people on our database were mistakenly sent a P45.

“The mistake was compounded when they were then given inaccurate information when they called to enquire about this.

“It was never our intention to act so discourteously towards people who have given such professional and loyal service over many years.

“I apologise most sincerely for the way this matter has been handled.”