The Government is due to come up with proposals to end the abuse where public sector staff spend their time working for trade unions while being paid by the taxpayer.
But, of course, councils can choose to put a stop the the practice themselves if they wish to. Supposing a motion was put to a Council meeting resolving to cease funding the trade unions either with cash, free offices or funded posts? Would Labour councillors, whose election campaigns are paid by the unions, be entitled to vote on the decision?
There was an interesting exchange on this point in the House of Commons on Monday during Communities and Local Government Questions.
Andrew Griffiths: Thank you, Mr Speaker, I will not be shouted down. According to the TaxPayers Alliance, Staffordshire county council, which covers my constituency, subsidised the unions to the tune of £281,000 or the equivalent of 10 full-time members of staff. Does the Secretary of State agree that such subsidies should be subject to a council vote and that any councillor whose election campaign is bankrolled by the unions should have to declare an interest?
Mr Pickles: This is money that is being taken away from the front line when times are tough. I am shocked by the amount of money that Staffordshire is spending. On whether Labour councillors who are bankrolled by the unions should declare an interest, it is very clear that the Localism Act 2011 abolished the Standards Board but created a new criminal offence of not declaring interests. There is a reasonable case for saying that if one is bankrolled by the unions, it is a prejudicial issue and the sensible thing would be to withdraw from the proceedings.