Plymouth City Council urged to cut £100k union subsidy
COUNCIL bosses have been urged to slash the £100,000-a-year subsidies they give to trade unions.
Conservative councillor Ian Bowyer said council figures showed that the equivalent of 8,000 hours of staff time was diverted to union activities each year, paid for by council taxpayers.
Subsidies for union-related activities in schools amount to £47,000, and council unions are subsidised to the tune of £42,600. Accommodation costs for the unions are £6,500.
"These annual costs of £96,000 are just those the council has disclosed, but they admit there are others," Cllr Bowyer said.
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"I am horrified to see that the progress the last Conservative council made on this issue has been stopped in its tracks.
"In the interests of taxpayers we modernised and streamlined the way the council did business and reduced the wage bill.
"It looks like the present Labour council doesn't have the bottle to take the tough decisions needed to keep this going."
Cllr Bowyer said the subsidy was the equivalent of five jobs.
"Local people are bankrolling the very unions whose national agenda seeks to undermine and disrupt the local services we all rely on."
He accepted that effective union representation could be a force for good in the workplace, but said: "These costs must be met by trade unions. The time has come for the council to face up to the facts and address this unfairness.
"This is an example of where sensible savings can be made rather than hiking up council tax."
A council spokeswoman said: "The council has a duty to inform, consult and negotiate with our workforce.
"Local authorities have a number of national negotiating bodies for different professions such as teachers, psychologists, health workers and other professions covering 300 different types of services.
"The use of local unions to work with the employer when consulting and negotiating means we can work together at a much quicker pace."
She said the unions were also working to improve health and safety in the workplace, support employees in improving their learning and development as well as supporting workers who face redundancy.
Cllr Peter Smith, deputy leader of the council, said: "Local authorities are the most efficient arm of government and we are still expected to bear the brunt of the cuts imposed in the public sector.
"With the help of trade unions, we are able to consult on the way in which we make these cuts, whilst protecting as many front-line services as possible.
"The amount paid to the trade unions has not changed and remains the same as when the previous administration was in power.
"It represents good value when you consider some of the other options of consulting and negotiation – especially with the speed at which the cuts from central government are being forced on us."