Kirklees Council is one of the biggest spenders on trade union officials in the UK.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) says Kirklees Council “wastes” about £455,000 a year on allowing union stewards paid time off to represent their members.

Of the councils that responded to a TPA probe into facility time costs, only Birmingham, Leeds and Leicester spent more than Kirklees.

“Facilty Time” – a legal requirement to allow union officials to operate – is also offered by many private firms that recognise unions.

But the lobby group has hit out and claimed the public should not be subsidising union work.

Kirklees Council chiefs have now vowed to slash the cost to about £300,000 over the next 12 months.


Leader of Kirklees Council, Clr David Sheard, said the figure was being cut back - but defended the concept of giving paid time off to union stewards.

“It doesn’t bother me if they are doing the job right,” he said. “Representing the workforce and helping with procedures. It’s better to use your own staff than to involve lawyers.

“If everything was done through lawyers it would cost a damn sight more.

“So I agree with it if they are purely working on terms and conditions and not for campaigning.”

Clr Sheard confirmed Kirklees did not pay for any offices or salaries of full time union officials.

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard
Kirklees Council leader David Sheard

The leader of the biggest union at Kirklees Council, Paul Holmes of Unison, has previously defended the cost, saying most employers, both public and private, recognise good industrial relations save them money.

But Alex Wild, Research Director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Trade unions are voluntary bodies of members and so should only receive the support of those members, not taxpayers.

“At a time when every part of the public sector has to make necessary savings, tens of millions of pounds cannot be wasted on subsidising political campaigns at the expense of hard-pressed families.”

The biggest council, Birmingham City Council, spends a stunning £1.1m on trade unions’ facility time. Leeds City Council spends about £502,000.

In comparison, Calderdale Council is estimated to spend only £30,000.

A Kirklees Council spokesperson said: “The council is committed to collective bargaining and effective employee relations.

“In order to achieve this there is a requirement for a number of individuals to be released for a proportion of their time to carry out trade union duties.

“The council and the trade unions have been working to refresh a time off agreement which will reduce the overall amount of release time and ultimately the cost.”