Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Cabinet Office Minister writes to councils over spending on Trade Union facility time [April 2024]

The press release issued by the Cabinet Office on 10 April 2024. The spreadsheet is available here.

Cabinet Office Minister Esther McVey has written to Councils that have high levels of spending on staff who work on trade union duties during working hours.

A total of 21 local authorities who have spent 0.2 per cent or more of their pay bill costs on trade union time have been contacted. In some cases, this amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In her letter, Minister McVey requested that council leaders look to set a cap on this expenditure, using the example of the Civil Service’s own spending limit, to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money.

A large number of staff in these Councils work solely on trade union matters, which is a practice that the Civil Service has stopped.

Facility Time is paid time off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out trade union duties.

In her letter to the 21 Councils, Cabinet Minister Esther McVey said:

Under transparency laws introduced through the Trade Union Act 2016, public sector organisations now have to report their spending on trade union facility time. The figures you have submitted show that you have a number of trade union representatives currently undertaking both council and union duties, funded by the UK taxpayer.

As the Civil Service has done, I am requesting that you find ways to cap this expenditure. The Government has reduced the level of facility time in the Civil Service from 0.26% of total paybill costs in 2012 to just 0.05% in 2024. The example set by the government shows how it is lawful and possible to achieve this.

Trade unions can play a constructive role in the modern workplace. But for too long in the public sector, trade unions have received taxpayer funding that is poor value for money and inadequately controlled.

Tackling such public subsidies to trade unions is a practical way that public authorities can save money, to keep taxes down and protect frontline services for local residents – including union members themselves.