THE ESTIMATED price tag for this year’s Hampshire County Council elections is £1.5m, up 50 per cent on the previous election.

This is equivalent to £19,330 to elect each of the 78 councillors on the council whose seats are all up for grabs after serving four-year terms.

The bill includes costs such as poll staff, hire of polling stations and printing of ballot papers but not campaign costs which are paid by political parties.

The 11 district councils in Hampshire run the election on behalf of the county council which foots the bill. Councillors in Winchester City Council are not up for election.

Tory county chiefs have earmarked £1.5m in the 2013-14 budget for the local election on May 4 - £500,000 more than the last election in £2009.

A council report said this was based on estimated costs from district councils.

Expenses include fees for returning officers in each of the 11 district councils who are responsible for the smooth running of elections.

In Winchester, director of governance Stephen Whetnall, was paid £17,000 in 2011 and £14,000 in 2012 on top of his £82,000 salary.

Mr Whetnall said: “It is not just supervising on election day but being responsible for running the operation running up to it, including training poll staff and dealing with any problems that might arise.” He said this could take up to three months.

But the steep rise in costs has come under fire from anti-council tax campaigners.

Mike Schofield, a member of IsItFair who lives in Bishop’s Waltham, said: “£1.5m is a horrendous amount of money to be spent on local elections. On top of this there are costs of district, parish and now police commissioner elections.

“If the county council election cost £1m four years ago, why is there a 50 per cent increase in cost which is coming out of the public purse?”

Reasons for increased costs are believed to include more postal voting and measures to combat fraud, for example double-checking signatures.

In 2009, county elections were held on the same day as EU elections which would have helped reduce costs such as hire of polling stations although there were two ballot papers and more votes to count.

The county council was asked to comment several days ago but failed to respond.