The Department for Communities and Local Government are pressing ahead with changes that will end the "check off" system – this is the arrangement where instead of trade unions collecting their own subs the Government does it for them via the payroll system. The Public and Commercial Services Union, led by their Trotskyist General Secretary Mark Serwotka, challenged the plan and won on a technicality involving the staff handbook terms agreed by the last Labour Government which will now be changed.
The Mirror has triumphantly reported that the legal action would cost taxpayers £90,000. However they did not report that the PCS still owes the Government money – due a larger unpaid bill from two years ago for costs awarded to the Government after PCS's failed judicial review of the Civil Service Compensation scheme reforms.
There is also good progress being made on cutting "facility time staffing costs" – this is the scandal where staff are paid by the taxpayer by spend their time working as union officials, the "Pilgrims." The saving for the DCLG and it's various agencies will come to £400,000 a year as these posts are phased out.
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis says:
Ministers in this Department believe that the current subsidies and support given to the trade unions by the public sector are poor value for money and represent an unhealthy relationship between the state and voluntary sector.
Trade union activities and campaigning in local government, and indeed our Department, should be funded by members' subscriptions, not bankrolled by the taxpayer. Greater freedom from state dependency will help ensure that trade union bosses better reflect and respond to the wishes and views of the grassroots members who pay the bill.
On the "check off" arrangement Mr Lewis adds:
Ministers in this Department do not believe it is appropriate for public resources to be used to support the collection and administration of membership subscriptions and believe is an outdated and unnecessary 20th Century practice. It is also unsatisfactory that trade unions like PCS collect the political levy via check-off, but make no attempt to inform would-be members that the political levy is optional or even mention the right to opt out on their membership forms. It is the view of Ministers in this Department that this is a misleading and dubious marketing practice through omission.
The PCS is a union who memebership has been falling by around 10 per cent a year. Why should the taxpayer bail them out? Mr Serwotka has "pay package" of £125,000 a year and lives in a detached house in Surrey from where he wages a class war – although he is unclear about whether he still supports George Galloway's Respect party. Given the sectarianism of these Trotskyists sects it is hard to keep track.
What is clear is that our taxes should not be going into the coffers of Mr Serwotka's outfit. Mr Pickles is right to be putting a stop to it and other Government Departments should do the same.
Mr Serwotka's spin doctor Richard Simcox has been in touch. He says the PCS have offered a "settlement" for the money they owe the DCLG but he won't say how much. Shouldn't it be the full costs? At any rate I am assured the sum is in excess of £100,000 and so the PCS owes the Government money not the other way around.
Mr Simcox adds:
You could decide that it is in the interests of honesty and openness to clarify that our "larger unpaid bill from two years ago" is not yet settled because the government didn't indicate until June this year that it wanted to recover the costs, and that we have made a formal offer that is currently sitting with the Treasury Solicitors. Not to do so, we argue, leaves your readers thinking the government chased us for the costs two years ago and we have refused to pay. Which is clearly inaccurate.
A good point. How many other government departments are pathetically slow to chase up money they owed by trade unions mounting failed legal challenges? Perhaps the Taxpayer's Alliance should do one of their Freedom of Information efforts to find out.