Conservatives have warmly welcomed new Government rules which will force councils to come clean on how much they spend subsidising staff working on Trade Union business rather than frontline services.
Council Group Leader, Geoffrey Theobald, has been pressing Brighton & Hove City Council to release this information for a number of years but, until recently, they have resisted. However, a recent Freedom of Information request by Cllr. Theobald revealed that in addition to 7 staff who are given full-time paid ‘release’ from their jobs to carry out Trade Union activity, there are a further 161 ‘local workplace representatives’ whose paid time off is not recorded. It is understood that at least 3 of these also work full-time as Trade Union officials.
At the last Full Council meeting, in response to a question from Cllr. Theobald, Council Leader Jason Kitcat stated that officers have finally given notice to the Unison and GMB Unions of the Council’s intention to review the so-called Trade Union Facilities Agreement in terms of both “its spirit and its practical operation”. The agreement has not been formally reviewed since it was introduced by the Council’s then Labour Administration back in 1997.
Cllr. Theobald said: “The fact that they are unable to tell me how much council taxpayers’ money is spent subsidising Trade Union activity is a damning indictment of how this Council is run. It is only as a result of constant pressure from the Conservative Group, and now the Government’s new transparency ruling, that this information is slowly coming to light and the agreement is being reviewed.”
“We need sensible and realistic Trade Unions who are willing to work constructively with the Council to help introduce the modernising reforms to Council services that are happening in other councils of all political colours up and down the country. Instead, here in Brighton & Hove we have a plethora of highly politicised full and part-time Union officials whose default reaction is to try and block any sensible measures that the Council puts forward. And the galling thing is that it is residents who are footing the bill for this. I warmly welcome the Government’s insistence on greater transparency and look forward to a more constructive future relationship between the Council and Trade Unions as a result.”