An interesting Parliamentary Question:

Trade Unions

Andrew Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidelines his Department issues to local authorities on payments to trade unions (a) in cash and (b) in kind.

Robert Neill: No guidance was issued by the last Government. Individual councils, in their role as employers, are responsible for the decisions about how to manage their workforce, interact with local trade unions and ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

The new Government's transparency agenda will help ensure that cash payments to trade unions and the titles of staff posts are open to public scrutiny.

At a time when councils need to make sensible savings to help pay off the budget deficit, councillors will rightly wish to review the merits of (full-time) union officials funded by the taxpayer and the provision of the office facilities to trade unions.

Councils often complain that cutting the pay of their Chief Executive would save a trivial amount of their total budget. But the Government has been offering plenty of other ideas of which this is the latest.

The Taxpayers Alliance survey on this shows the number of staff funded to take time off full time for trade unions is substantial. 

The existing transparency requirements will show up payments made to trade unions. But the staff paid by a council to take time off, working for unions does not show up – yet.

However the proposed DCLG Code of Recommended Practice on Transparency (the consultation has just finished) calls for:

"An organisational chart of the staff structure of the local authority" and "Senior salaries, names (with the option for individuals to refuse to consent for their name to be published) job descriptions, responsibilities, budgets and numbers of staff. "Senior salaries" is defined as being all salaries which are above £58,200 (irrespective of post), which is the Senior Civil Service minimum pay band."

They also want to see job vacancies routinely published online.