Questions have been raised over the ‘enormous’ amount of funding spent on trade union roles for employees by North Tyneside Council.
Conservative councillors on the authority have hit out after discovering the council is spending £208,000 a year for staff to work full-time in trade union roles.
They say the facility time is paying for the equivalent of six full time posts – and at a time when other councils are reducing their payments.
Conservative members have questioned why this section of the budget is exempt from any cuts.
Conservative group leader Coun Judith Wallace said: “Labour constantly complain about financial pressures, yet are willing to keep on paying this enormous sum.
“When other council budgets have been under review for several years, this trade union one seems to be immune from reform.
“Other councils have reduced this cost, but the figure which North Tyneside’s Labour controlled council is spending is excessive.
“Portsmouth City Council, for example, which is of a similar size, has cut their trade union costs from £75,000 to £37,500 a year.
“Why is our council spending six times that amount?
“We believe this money, which comes from taxpayers, should be going to essential services, such as repairs to roads and pavements.”
However, Coun Bruce Pickard, the council’s Deputy Mayor with cabinet responsibility for HR, said: “The authority has always valued good industrial relations and this has never been more important during a time when local authorities are required to make major changes and save significant sums of money.
“That North Tyneside Council has managed to deliver both radical changes to services and to balance the books under enormous financial strain is a testament to the successful relationship with its Trades Unions.
“I find it strange that the Conservative councillors were shocked to find out about facility time to Trade Unions, as it is allocated under an agreement made in 2012 while Conservative Coun Judith Wallace was Deputy Mayor.
“The current cost is the same as that for 2011/12 while one fewer person is now engaged in the work.
“Three quarters of the Authority’s staff are members of the two main Trades Unions and the work done on their behalf has settled some significant issues while avoiding the costs and unrest that have been experienced elsewhere in local government.”