As I reported last week new rules have been brought in which many councillors must declare financial backing from trade unions. One of the implications is that those with a prejudicial interest would not be able to vote on the issue of "trade union facility time" – the "pilgrims" paid by the council but working for the unions.
One of the early tests is likely to be Bradford.
Cllr Glen Miller, Leader of the Conservative Group says:
“My colleagues and I are particularly pleased that the Local Government Minister, Bob Neill is requiring councillors to declare any financial support that they receive, including contributions towards their election expenses etc from the trade unions.
"As the people of Bradford District are likely to be aware, the Conservative Group on Bradford Council has long been arguing that the council should not be spending in excess of £500,000 per year on subsidising the wages of union employees representing council staff. The council staff all pay union subs, which should cover the wages of the union reps, but for some reason Labour Councillors refuse to recognise this fact and protect the union funding regardless of which libraries or swimming pools are sold to deliver “essential savings”.
"I and many others wonder whether the fact that much of this “union” money ends up in Labour Party coffers, may have anything to do with it. It will be interesting to see how many Labour Councillors, who refuse to see the funding levels to council trade unions brought in line with what trade unions representing employees in the private sector, are bankrolled by them. I would not be in the slightest surprised if all 44 Labour Councillors have to declare an interest with one union or another. This appalling financial conflict of interest must be brought to an end without delay.
“It will be interesting to see if there are as many Labour Party leaflets circulating the Bradford District when the gold plating of facility time is removed and when the effects of the need to declare union political donations takes effect. The taxpayer should be confident that their money is not in-directing paying for party political campaigns and I call on the new Labour Leader, Councillor Dave Green, to show strong leadership and remove the gold plated facility time provisions without waiting for Eric Pickles, a former Leader of Bradford Council to force him”.