COUNCIL taxpayers are forking out a quarter of a million pounds a year to trade union officials.
New figures show Kirklees Council paid nine full-time union officers £275,938 last year – an average of £30,659 each.
Kirklees has the ninth highest bill in the country.
Clr Robert Light, who leads the opposition Conservatives, demanded an end to the practice of paying full-time union officials.
He said yesterday: "Council taxpayers are subsidising the political activities of trade unions which I think is totally unacceptable.
"I would like to see a change where trade unions stand up for themselves. Union activities on the back of council taxpayers must come to an end."
The Birstall and Birkenshaw man added: "No union in the private sector gets the amount of subsidy and time off which the local government unions receive.
"Why should the unions be sponsored by the council taxpayers at a time when services are being cut?"
The Examiner contacted Kirklees Unison – which has 11,000 members – to ask for a comment. None was forthcoming.
But Unison regional organiser Leonie Sharp did respond.
She said: "The council is not paying the salaries of union staff as has been falsely suggested.
"Union staff are employed and paid by the union. The council pays the salaries of a handful of Kirklees Council employees who are democratically elected by their membership and are released as trade union representatives.
"Both in the public and the private sector, trade union officials are entitled in law for paid time to attend to their trade union duties so there is nothing untoward about this.
"Our officials work tirelessly day in day out with the employer to ensure improvements in working practices, safe and productive workplaces and initiatives to safeguard services for the people of Kirklees.
"Union representatives can’t be regarded simply as a ‘cost’ to the employer but an important resource for both employees and employers."
A Kirklees spokesman added that the council was legally obliged to pay certain full-time union officials.
He said: "It is written in law that if you are a shop steward, or equivalent trade union official, you are entitled to reasonable paid time off to carry out your duties and to receive relevant training. The law is supplemented by a code of practice published by ACAS – the national organisation which promotes strong industrial relations – which helps to define the duties covered.
"As such this is common practice in large organisations, both in the private and public sector.
"The council is the biggest employer in Kirklees and has a total workforce of around 18,000 people, many of whom are members of recognised trade unions."
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 319 councils across the country paid £35m to union officials between 2008 and 2011.
Kirklees had the ninth highest bill last year, with Leeds in third position and Sheffield top.
Top 10 union payers in 2010/11
Sheffield paid 18 union officials at a cost of £504,585
Newham paid nine union officials at a cost of £380,562
Leeds paid 15 council officials at a cost of £348,274
Tameside paid 8.4 (full-time equivalent) staff at a cost of £336,718
Wolverhampton paid 10 union officials at a cost of £336,656
Greenwich paid 10.55 union officials at a cost of £298,975
Stoke-on-Trent paid seven union officials at a cost of £286,860
Waltham Forest paid 8.7 union officials at a cost of £283,254
Kirklees paid nine officials at a cost of £275,938
Liverpool paid 10 union officials at a cost of £262,760.