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RCN elections policy should be ‘clearer’, investigation finds



An independent investigation has found that RCN elections policy should be made ‘clearer and more concise’ following the controversial disqualification of two presidential candidates last year.

Employment lawyer Simon Cheetham’s second report into the 2020 presidential elections commissioned by the RCN Council, published on Monday, found the ‘unnecessarily long’ and ‘repetitive’ 30-page elections policy should be rewritten.

He also suggested that the returning officer role is carried out externally. This would avoid concerns ‘over the independence of a member of staff’, he wrote.

This comes after his first report published in November found the returning officer acted in ‘good faith’ when she disqualified two candidates last August for breaking rules by using RCN resources on social media. But he also said election policy should be ‘significantly revised’.

In his latest report, Mr Cheetham recommended ‘a pragmatic approach’ to rules on the use of RCN resources – including a document that defines ‘RCN resources’ with precise examples and more guidance for candidates.

He also said candidates should be notified any time a complaint is made about their conduct and given the opportunity to response. Any sanctions should also be discussed with the candidate before a decision is taken.

The candidates disqualified in the 2020 presidential election said the decision was unexpected and left them feeling isolated, according to Mr Cheetham’s first report.

The RCN Council should also review complaint handling during future election campaigns and consider the sanctions available under any new policy, Mr Cheetham concluded.

RCN Council chair Dave Dawes said that the RCN has taken forward some of these changes including ‘amending campaign guidelines to allow greater use of social media platforms and delegating the responsibilities of the returning officer to an independent scrutineer’.

He added: ‘The RCN Governance Support Committee will now work on redefining the rules relating to the RCN elections policy, and this will be voted on by RCN Council ahead of the presidential election.’

The presidential election was cancelled in September last year after the remaining two candidates withdrew. RCN members voted for a comprehensive governance review at an extraordinary general meeting held in November.

The RCN has said that a timetable for the redone RCN presidential elections ‘will be published in due course’.