Last week there was a Cabinet Meeting of Labour-run Greenwich Council. You might have missed School Funding Reforms Appendix B: Delegation of central services/budgets. It includes the following:
Trades unions recompense: provides re-imbursement for school based staff for trades unions activities. The local authority intends to request de-delegation. Proposed delegation formula:
• Primary: £3 per pupil
• Secondary: £6 per pupil
In other words the council has approved an arrangement where funding is taken out of schools to fund the salaries of trade union officials – including such crackpot outfits as the National Union of Teachers.
The political aspect of this decision is highly dubious. Even when the unions, such as the NUT, are not affiliated to the Labour Party there are not proper checks on how their officials spend their day. What is to stop them during election campaigns spending their working hours, funded by the taxpayer, campaigning for the Labour councillors who vote through this cosy arrangement?
Also some of the money will go to non-teaching unions to reflect the non–teaching staff at schools. Unions such as Unison and Unite who are huge Labour paymasters and thus where the conflict of interest is even more stark.
The sums involved are considerable. A typical secondary in the borough will be paying £7,000 for trade unions, and other secondary schools a similar amount. Greenwich Conservatives estimate this will cost primary schools and secondary schools around £120,000 in total (about £60,000 for each sector). This is money taken out of education and handed to the unions – who will then use it to organise demos about cuts.
Cllr Adam Thomas, who sits on the Royal Borough’s Children & Young People Scrutiny Panel, said:
“This is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money. We pay taxes to help children receive a good education, but the Labour Party in Greenwich are siphoning this off so that unions can spend more money supporting Labour candidates nationally and locally. In my opinion, this decision lays bare Labour’s priorities – when it comes to looking after young people in this borough, they will always put their own selfish interests ahead of their welfare and education.”
The good news is that a growing number of schools in Greenwich are academies and so outside the clutches of this arrangement. If the NUT go to Harris Academy Greenwich Park and ask them to hand over a few thousand to contribute to union salaries the school can politely decline the enticing invitation. Ditto St Paul's Academy. Also there's Corelli College. St Thomas More Roman Catholic School and Shooters Hill Post-16 Campus are in the pipeline to become academies. As the municipal empire crumbles so does the union one.
This is the context not only in Greenwich but around the country of union reps lobbying against schools being given the independence that academy status provides or against free schools being set up.
I don't doubt the ideological sincerity of the unions – they are dominated by the most fanatical left wing extremists. But in undertaking such campaigning – frequently resorting to bullying and dishonesty – they have a critical financial interest.