Axe falls on County Hall’s union funding

Council leader Geoff Driver
Council leader Geoff Driver

Funding for five trade union officials seconded to Lancashire County Council has been axed.

The move, which will save the council £153,682 a year, has been labelled ‘a false economy’ by unions.

The cut was agreed by the council’s employment committee. Speaking following the decision, council leader Geoff Driver said:“At a time when the council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge, we simply cannot afford to fund these posts. We will, of course, honour our statutory obligations and allow reasonable time off for union officials to fulfil their duties.”

The council says it understands it will now face indirect costs for union staff.

There are currently six full-time trade union representatives at County Hall, five of them paid for by the council. The sixth post, the Lancashire Unison branch secretary role, is funded by the public services union. In a submission to the committee, a joint trade union statement advised unions would not be prepared to pay for secondments when employers had a statutory duty to grant paid time off for union work. Union Branch Secretary Elaine Cotterell said: “Clearly it’s a false economy. It’s going to be more disruptive.”

She predicted it would take longer for staff consultations and disciplinary negotiations and that union officials would have to be reintegrated into their jobs from next April.

The unions’ membership

There are 9,972 Unison members and 610 Unite members at the council