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Public Bodies

Question for Department for Communities and Local Government

UIN 215623, tabled on 24 November 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, how much was spent by his Department's public bodies on employees partly or wholly employed on trade union duties in each of the last three years.

Answered on

26 March 2015

This Government has taken action to tackle the taxpayer-funded subsidies that previously were handed to the trade unions. Such payments were poor value for money and represented an unhealthy relationship between the state and voluntary sector.

Trade union activities and campaigning in the public sector should be funded by members' subscriptions, not bankrolled by the taxpayer. Greater freedom from state dependency will help ensure that trade union bosses better reflect and respond to the wishes and views of the grassroots members who pay the bill.

Following the Cabinet Office review of the use of facility time and facilities in the civil service, the Department for Communities and Local Government has made a series of reforms:

  • Cutting back the guideline facility allocation to close to private sector benchmarks;
  • All trade union representatives must now spend the majority of their time in Civil Service roles – we no longer fund full-time “pilgrims”;
  • The Department no longer provides any funding for staff to carry out trade union activities;
  • Tighter controls have been implemented to prevent inappropriate use of departmental and office facilities for campaigning purposes;
  • The check-off facility has been ended for new entrants.

In 2013-14, the first year of the new regime, departmental facility time staffing costs were reduced to £47,620. To place in context, previous years were £153,814 in 2012-13, £140,687 in 2011-12, £177,100 in 2009-10 and £245,644 in 2008-09.

Figures for our public bodies are shown in the attached table, and show a total reduction of £222,303 in 2013-14 on the year before. There are additional further sayings from a reduction in union expenses (now zero across the Department and our public bodies).

We have also issued guidance to councils to follow our example in delivering sensible savings. We have amended the local government Transparency Code to increase openness and accountability over such taxpayer-funded payments to the trade unions.

Answered by

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government