Sunday, 12 September 2010

Councillors’ allowances and taxpayer funding of unions

Below is a short article I wrote for the Hull Daily Mail, published on Saturday 11 September.


At this time of year, we learn how much our local councillors have been paid in allowances and expenses, and the perennial debate commences on whether or not they provide value for money. During the course of my work, I speak to many councillors and there are those who are extremely hardworking and, as in any other profession or walk of life, there are those who are not.

This year, though, the leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Stephen Parnaby, announced councillors in his authority will not receive a rise next year and Carl Minns, leader of Hull City Council, has announced cabinet members will take a pay cut of 5% from January next year. We in the Taxpayers’ Alliance welcome these moves, as it shows councillors are prepared to lead by example as the inevitable cuts to public services start to bite. My only is question to Mr Parnaby is: Why has it taken so long? Hull City councillors have been on a pay freeze for the last four years. Nevertheless, his decision is welcome news.

What has annoyed me – and many others on the Mail’s website – are the comments from Dave Mathieson, the convenor of the UNITE union in Hull. He has called for all councillors in the city to take a pay cut. This is not a reasonable option – considering they have not received an increase in four years – and his comments prove the old adage, people in glass houses should not throw stones.

Mr Mathieson is not paid by his union; he is paid by the taxpayer. He has received salary increases over the past four years and as far as I’m aware, he has not volunteered to take a 5% pay cut himself. I am not ideologically opposed to trades’ unions. If people wish to join one, it is up to them. I think my views are in tune with the majority of the British people, however, it is wrong that every taxpayer in the country indirectly funds them. If UNITE wants a full-time convenor in Hull, it should pay for it themselves.

I have seen the income from my business fall by around a third in the past couple of years. If only my outgoings had done the same. If Mr Mathieson wants to lead by example, perhaps he should resign from his job at Hull City Council, become a full-time employee on his union’s payroll, and relieve taxpayers of the expense of his salary. If he does this voluntarily, I will be the first person to congratulate him.

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