Peterborough City Council has been on the TPA radar of late because of their plan to increase council tax by 2.95% each year for the next five years. Senior Tory councillor David Seaton was awarded our "Pinhead of the Month" gong for January in recognition of his efforts to increase the burden on his local residents.
And as the councillors continue to insist that they have no option but to increase council tax – despite the Government offering funding to allow for a freeze – figures have now come to light showing the true extent to which those funds are being used to subsidise the trade unions.
Our report into the taxpayer funding of trade unions last November suggested that the two Full Time Equivalent Unison activists being funded by Peterborough City Council (see p.52) were costing £56,385 of council tax payers’ money (based on them each being paid the median gross annual public sector salary of £22,902 and then taking into account pension and NI contributions, taking their cost to £28,192 each).
However, today we can reveal the identities of the two full –time tax-payer funded UNISON activists and how their higher than median salaries are meaning that even more of Peterborough council tax payers’ money is being channelled to the unions than was first thought.
A letter from Cllr Irene Walsh, Peterborough’s Cabinet member for Finance, to Stewart Jackson, Peterborough’s MP, has reached our attention and we have published it online today in order that people can see the costs for themselves.
Rona Hendry is the UNISON branch secretary and will cost the Peterborough council tax payer no less than £43,600 over the coming year. Her branch Assistant Secretary, Mark Burn, is also being fully funded by the taxpayer to the tune of £29,700.
Cllr Walsh adds that when you include the value of free office facilities and other costs, the estimated bill to the Peterborough tax payer of supporting this branch of UNISON is £83,500 – 48% more than the cautious TPA estimate.
We maintain that while trade unions can have a role to play in workplaces, it should not be for taxpayers to foot their bills – that is exactly why people pay a subscription to a union. Likewise, they should be invoiced for their taxpayer-funded offices, yet in her letter Cllr Walsh opines that “I do not believe it would be in the interests of promoting good industrial relations to do so.”
It’s a shame that Cllr Walsh is not more interested in promoting better taxpayer value for money in Peterborough by stopping this subsidy to the unions and more closely monitoring other staff time taken off for union meetings – activities which she says are “more difficult to monitor”.
This makes it all the more disappointing that civic leaders are intent on hiking the council tax in Peterborough.