Conservatives on Brighton & Hove City Council have welcomed the announcement by Communities & Local Government Secretary – Eric Pickles – that the Government is to crack down on the practice of “trade union facility time” where council (and other public sector) staff work for trade unions, often full time, yet have their salaries paid by the council taxpayer.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month, Mr Pickles said: “I am delighted to announce today in relatively short time we will be offering advice to local authorities both in terms of trade union time and check-off. I want to retain the independence of trades unions and therefore it is massively important that they pay for things themselves.”
Last year, Brighton & Hove City Council spent £263,000 of council taxpayers’ money on Trade Union facility time, employing over 7 full time equivalent members of staff. Conservatives are also seeking clarification over the arrangements that the Council has in place for the ‘check off’ process whereby trade union subs are collected directly by council payroll departments. This often includes collection of the ‘political levy’ – the voluntary payment that trade union members can make to the Labour Party. Under the regulations, councils are able to charge unions for carrying out check off.
Conservative Group Leader – Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald – said: “I was very pleased to hear Mr Pickles make this commitment in person at the recent Party Conference. We understand that trade union members working for a council need to be represented in the workplace. However, I think that, particularly in the current economic climate, it is reasonable to question just how much of this cost is borne by hard-pressed council taxpayers.”
Conservative Group Finance Spokesperson – Cllr.Ann Norman– added: “At the Budget Council meeting in February we tried to get the council taxpayer funding of Trades Unions reduced but sadly both Green and Labour groups failed to support us. We will try again for next year’s Budget, hopefully with some clear Government guidance in place to back up our case. I think that most residents would be astonished at the amount of their council tax that is spent on employing trade union officials.”