The amount of taxpayers’ money Bradford Council spends on the wages and perks of union officials is “truly shocking”, its Conservative group has said.
Their leader, Councillor Glen Miller, said the bill was £764,300 a year – higher than he had previously thought.
He said this diverted vital funds from frontline services, and called for the salaries of union representatives to be paid for out of members’ subsidies instead.
But unions have responded by saying Coun Miller doesn’t understand the arrangements and that the services they provide save the taxpayer money.
Coun Miller, who is working on his party’s alternative budget plans, said: “I know that I have banged on incessantly about the cost to the Council taxpayer of union staff wages and other costs for some time now, but I never cease to be amazed.”
He said he had previously believed the cost was around £500,000 a year, but had now discovered that union representatives in schools alone were costing £510,600, with Council union staff costing a further £253,700.
In total, it pays for the equivalent of 21 full-time union workers, although many are on a part-time basis. The unions involved are Unison, Unite, the GMB, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Head Teachers.
Coun Miller said some unions also got free parking and free use of rooms in City Hall which members of the public would have to pay for.
Ian Murch, of the NUT, said reps were entitled to get paid time off their duties to work on union matters.
He said with more than 3,000 NUT members in Bradford, this allowed for his own four-day-a-week union role, as well as other part-time staff.
Pam Milner, of the NASUWT, said teachers facing meetings over disciplinary, sickness or redundancy matters were entitled to representation, a function which union reps often provided.
She said if schools instead had to pay lawyers, the bill to the taxpayer would be much higher.
She said: “We would be more than happy to have a round-table conversation with Coun Miller to say, ‘Let’s look at the facts, let’s look at the evidence and let’s take it from there’.”
Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford Council, said the payment of school union staff “did not come out of people’s Council tax and could not be used for services outside schools”.
He said these payments were a decision for the Schools Forum and not the Council.
Coun Green said the money paid included £190,000 for health and safety reps, who did an important job “making sure there was a safe working environment and a safe environment for young people attending school”.