The Leader of Swansea's Conservatives Councillor René Kinzett has discovered that the City Council is forking out £140,000 every year on the wages of trade union officials.

Under a deal reached in 1996, the then Labour-run Swansea Council agreed to fund 16 members of staff, paid for by the local taxpayer, but working for the unions.

According to Civic Centre sources, the policy affords Unison 22 days per week (which covers nine employees), Unite seven days (fouremployees), UCATT one day (one employee) and GMB six days (two employees).

The £140,000 spent on this agreement could save the equivalent of seven full-time jobs at the Council.

Councillor Kinzett says:

"I support the unions to do their job in representing the interests of their members and also in ensuring that the people of Swansea get good quality public services. I have also been a union officer in the workplace, but I did it on top of my day job and I didn't get any payments from my employer to carry out my union duties.

"At a time of severe budget restraint, I would hope that those in charge of Swansea Council are seriously looking at this arrangement. If, as admitted by the LibDem-led Council, redundancies are unavoidable, then I would hope that some money and staff posts could be saved by ending the taxpayer subsidies to union officials."

By the way, the Freedom of Information request to Swansea Council by the Taxpayers Alliance (for their report Taxpayer Funding of Trade Unions) suggests the situation is even worse. It records the figures on Full Time Equivalents for the NUT, NASUWT and UCAC ( as well as Unison, Unite, UCATT and the GMB.) The total for the cost of paying staff to take time off for the trade union activities comes to over £250,000.