City Council criticised for £83k union spending

Peterborough City Council news from The Peterborough Evening Telegraph.
Peterborough City Council news from The Peterborough Evening Telegraph.
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Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson has joined a national pressure group in criticising Peterborough City Council for its “scandalous” spending on full-time union officials.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance and Conservative Mr Jackson have gone on the offensive after it was revealed the council spends £83,000 a year to employ two Unison representatives.

Branch secretary Rona Hendry is on a £43,600 salary, while her assistant secretary Mark Burn is on £29,700, while it costs in the region of £10,000 a year to maintain a union office at the council.

Mr Jackson thinks that with councils having funding slashed by government, full-time union representatives are luxuries the council can ill-afford and thinks the union should pick up the tab.

He said: “At a time of reductions in council budgets and council tax increases, this spending is completely unjustifiable and frankly scandalous.

“Perhaps these trades union reps do a good job but why don’t Unison pick up at least the bulk of the bill, as they’re working on behalf of their own members? It shouldn’t fall as a burden wholly on hard-pressed taxpayers.”

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has focused its ire on the city council in recent weeks after the council revealed plans to increase council tax by 2.95 per cent in 2012/13.

Its political director Jonathan Isaby said: “We maintain that while trade unions can have a role to play in workplaces, it should not be for taxpayers to foot their bills – that is exactly why people pay a subscription to a union.”

The criticism however has prompted a stern response from both the council and Unison, who said the decision to employ two full-time union officials for Unison’s 1,450 council members, including those working in schools, was cost neutral.

This is because if there were no full-time union workers, as many as 30 council union representatives would have to take time off work to attend to their union duties, costing the council money anyway.

A council spokeswoman said: “We believe this is far less disruptive to the delivery of services because it means union representatives are not taking ad-hoc time off from their full-time roles to carry out trade union duties, reducing the need to bring in temporary staff or pay overtime.”

Unison regional organiser John Toomey added: “What the Taxpayers’ Alliance, impressive in its ignorance, fails to grasp is that this saves the council money as it means workers don’t have to give up time to carry out union duties.”

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