Local authorities spend nearly £15 million subsidising unions, TPA reveals

March 14, 2017 9:08 AM

Local authorities spend nearly £15 million subsidising unions, TPA reveals

  • 371 local authority staff members who worked for trade unions at least 50 per cent of the time
  • The total amount spent on "facility time" by local authorities was at least £14,666,610.42
  • This would be enough to fix 276,728 potholes
  • Report includes council-by-council breakdown of the figures

Click here for the full report

A new report from TaxPayers' Alliance reveals the cost of "facility time" to local authorities between 2012-13 and 2015-16. Facility time is paid time-off taken by trade union representatives to carry out union duties.

In 2014, TPA research showed that £108 million of taxpayers’ money had gone to trade unions, both directly and through facility time. Trade unions have also benefited from office space provided free of charge. Our latest research shows that local authorities continue to provide millions of pounds worth of facility time to unions.

Many local authorities do not make their data on trade union payments easily available, and the most recently-available data varies by year. This means that our figures significantly downplay the overall total amounts.

For instance, our ‘total amount spent’ figure is the total of all the most recent figures we could find going back to 2012-13. In some cases that was for 2012-13, and in some it was for 2015-2016. The real costs across the years described will therefore be considerably higher than our ‘total amount spent’ figure suggests.

Key findings

In 2015-16:

  • The total amount spent on facility time by local authorities was at least £14,666,610.42.
  • The average local authority saw at least 0.11 per cent of their wage bill go to trade unions, compared to just 0.04 per cent in the private sector . 
  • There were at least 371 full-time local authority staff members who worked for trade unions at least 50 per cent of the time.
  • Almost a third of those local authorities analysed did not publish the data on their involvement with unions, in contravention of the law.
  • The two local authorities which spent the most on facility time: Birmingham City Council: £1,124,924, and Leeds City Council: £502,095

Regional breakdown of the highest amount spent on facility time:

  • In the North East, Sunderland - £258,697.
  • In the North West, Bolton - £390,481.
  • In Scotland, City of Edinburgh - £244,576.
  • In the East Midlands, Leicester City Council - £494,544.
  • In the South West, Cornwall County Council - £142,983.
  • In the East of England, Suffolk County Council - £189,741.
  • In London, Lambeth Borough Council - £281,000.
  • In the South East, Brighton and Hove City Council - £262,016.

Commenting on the paper, Alex Wild, the Research Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"Trade unions are voluntary bodies of members and so should only receive the support of those members, not taxpayers. A huge amount continues to fund union duties, often without the express knowledge or consent of taxpayers, which simply isn't right. At a time when every part of the public sector has to make necessary savings, tens of millions of pounds cannot be wasted on subsidising political campaigns at the expense of hard-pressed families."

Broadcasters can find a broadcast-quality audio clip from the TPA's Alex Wild here

Click here for the full report

TPA spokesmen are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)

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