Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

Labour Attacked for Funding Trade Unions From Council Tax

When I posted a few days ago about Labour’s secret funding of Trade Union officials using £1.4m of Council Tax I expected some reaction and the usual personal attacks from Labour. It is typical of Reading Labour that rather than just defend a practice which they clearly think is acceptable, the leader of the Opposition, Cllr Jo Lovelock has attacked the messenger. Apparently I have “no credibility” and hold “far right” views. If Councillor Lovelock really thinks that it is “far right” to believe that Trades Unions (which can afford to fund expensive party political campaigns) should not be funded from Council Tax Payers’ money, then she has a lot to learn about public opinion.

It was also amazing to see that a story which I broke on 21 January is not just on the local TV and radio but was raised in Parliament yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions. It seems that my information that £1.4m was spent over 8 years was not the whole story – the total amount is probably more than £1.4m over a much longer period! However, to be fair, we have now assumed that the £1.4m was over 12 years. Still £1.4m and all funded from Council Tax at a time when Council Tax doubled under Labour.

Labour’s public defence of the payment also seems to have shifted in the last day. When I first blogged the story Labour commenters said that all that had happened was that Council Tax payers had funded some occasional time off for Union duties, which sounded bad but  less unreasonable. Today it has been confirmed by the BBC and by a Labour activist on Twitter that in fact full time posts were funded for the NUT, Unite and Unison.

Labour claims that this was already “well known” and that I and others should have known as I was a member of the Local Joint Forum in the past. I have checked previous minutes and can confirm that this information was never revealed at any meeting I attended, or at others I have looked at. A colleague has been checking the last 8 years “Gold Papers” which are the Council’s Budget papers, and it was not mentioned there either.

Decent Council Tax paying residents have been contacting me and my colleagues to express their shock that at least £1.4m of Council Tax receipts were used by Labour to fund their Union colleagues, money that could have been spent on schools, roads, social service and housing.

Nationally last year Unite paid Labour £818,366 and Unison paid £396,515 (Source: Electoral Commission). The Reading Labour Party has received regular donations from Unions. In 2009 Unite gave Reading Labour Party £1,000, Unison gave them £1,500. In 2010 Unison gave £1,720, as recorded to date on the Electoral Commission website.

More to come……..!


January 27, 2011 - Posted by | Local


  1. As Cllr Swaine blogged recently, it wasn’t Labour, it was the Council.

    Seriously, as a trade union member, my union occasionally supported me personally in respect of a particular manager, as well as general pay and conditions negotiations. As a lay union rep, I helped individual members – and tackled many local issues including the individual manager who believed women should never be promoted because they might get married and get pregnant. As an employer, I have found union reps and officials invaluable in difficult situations – particularly in knowing and advising their members on what is right and reasonable and what is not.

    I am saddened that you have so little understanding of the value to management of good industrial relations, that you have launched this public attack on how this and every other council handles its industrial relations.

    PS. I have never belonged to a trade union affiliated to the Labour Party. And I joined the Labour Party after ceasing to be a union rep.

    Comment by Christine | January 27, 2011 | Reply

    • Christine,

      So what if the unions helped you, why should my council tax fund unions? They charge their members a subscription and that should be used to fund them, ie their members fund it not people’s council tax. The vast majority of the public are not in favour of trade unions and indeed are inconvenienced by them on a regular basis because the unions do not live in the real world where change happens on a daily basis.

      If the unions want more money then I suggest that the likes of Bob Crow take a pay cut from the 6 figure salaries that they’re currently being paid.

      Comment by Darren | January 27, 2011 | Reply

      • Personally I do not think it is wise of Unions to accept such funding unless it is for services rendered that are of demonstrable value.

        That said to talk as though all Unions are the same and to characterise them using extreme union leaders to furnish your example is obviously unfair. Unions play a vital role in the UK in many respects and cannot simply be dismissed as troublemakers.

        The real question here is which councillors (of all parties) knew about this and why did they key it happen?

        Comment by Rolo | February 21, 2011

  2. “In 2009 Unite gave Reading Labour Party £1,000, Unison gave them £1,500. In 2010 Unison gave £1,720, as recorded to date on the Electoral Commission website.” Thanks for the Official info Richard…

    Comment by Jazz | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  3. By the way, Phil has gone all quiet..

    Comment by Jazz | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  4. Jazz,

    By the time I get halfway through one of Richards interminably dull first paragraphs on almost any local issue I find myself falling into a deep boredom induced sleep. Also why would local Reading issues interest me when I don’t live within the boundaries? However I am pleased that I am still in your thoughts and you can rest assured I haven’t gone away.

    Comment by Phil the Greek | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  5. Nobody is saying that unions dont do a good job and shouldn’t have some time off to conduct their union duties. What sticks in my throat is taxpayers money being used to fund them, especially when unions pass thousands across to the local Labour party and millions to the national Labour party.

    Unions can afford to fund their own staff and should do so. We should not be paying for them.

    Comment by Doodlebug | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  6. “when I don’t live within the boundaries” so where do you live then? It’s just you do remind of some local politicians. Labour of course and yes I am sure you “haven’t gone away”.Yet! As for always in my thoughts, some of us must be too! In yours.TTFN
    By the way: do you use spellcheck or you just have perfect english. Just asking..

    Comment by Jazz | January 27, 2011 | Reply

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