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23.09.13

Councillors must disclose trade union links – DCLG

Councillors are being forced to disclose their trade union ‘dealings’ under new Government rules.

The Department for Communities & Local Government’s guidance on openness and transparency of councillors’ personal interests has been revised to include specifically registering union memberships.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said: “For too long residents have been kept in the dark about what union affiliations their councillors hold. All councillors should disclose all their personal and financial interests on a public register, including registering union interests.

“Given the public debate about ‘facility time’ and ‘pilgrims’ in local government, it’s vital that conflicts of interest are avoided. These transparency reforms will give local people the confidence that their councillors are putting residents’ interests before their own.”

The DCLG said an example of a conflict of interest would be a review of taxpayer-funded subsidies for trade unions being decided upon by a trade union member.

As well as the changes to the councillors’ guidance, the DCLG says that councils’ own code of conduct should now also specify the requirement to register trade union interests within 28 days of taking office, as with financial and other interests.

It is part of the wider changes to local authority standards, replacing the old Standards Board, which require councils to adopt a code of conduct based on ‘Nolan principles’: the involvement of an independent person in allegations of misconduct, a register of members’ pecuniary interests, and a new criminal offence for failing to declare or register pecuniary interests.

Brian Strutton, national secretary for public services for the GMB union, called the new policy “a damp squib that I don't think anyone will be too worried about”.

He added: “The local government minister is requiring councillors to declare their trade union membership seemingly oblivious to the fact that they already do. In my experience councillors of all political parties and independents are proud of their union membership and happy to declare it. This is because councillors recognise all the valuable work done by trade union representatives throughout local government and indeed the wider economy. 

“While this is clearly meant to be another Tory attack on trade unions it will achieve very little because trade unions and councillors have nothing to fear from openness and transparency, unlike the Conservative Party who won't even admit how few members they have.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Eric Firth   23/09/2013 at 14:09

Brian is absolutely right I have been an elected member since 94 and have without fail declared my union membership every year and proud to do so and as do my colleagues. What this rather daft minister is trying to achieve is beyond comprehension.

Dave Smith   23/09/2013 at 16:15

I have been a local Councillor since 1986 and have always declared my trade union membership. The question is already on the Declaration of Interests form. Who advises numpties like Brandon Lewis ? He also wants to end Councillors partcipation in the local govt pension scheme - yet it's still OK for MP's to be part of a pension scheme ! * The Minister should be more worried about those Councillors who fail to declare membership of the Freemasons and other such societies.

Cllr Roger P Allen   23/09/2013 at 20:31

As a conservative councillor, I am obliged to register my membership of organisations that have no political affiliations whatsoever. I cannot see that this move will make a scrap of difference to anything.

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