In the week that has seen the loss of Davy Jones who brought us the iconic song Daydream Believer I am concerned by the daydreaming of one of our political leaders who also has his roots in the music industry, albeit as a financier, rather than a musician. Mike Weatherly, MP for Hove has included an item in his weekly e-news about the costs of supporting a trade union by Sussex Police. His item is reproduced in full below:
Mike has spoken out against the huge public subsidy of trade union officials within Sussex Police.
Figures released by Sussex Police, following a Freedom of Information request, show that the annual cost to the taxpayer of trade union officials in Sussex Police was £183,099.75 in 2009/2010 and £162,926.42 in 2010/2011.
Commenting, Mike said: “It’s astonishing that tax payers are having to foot this simply enormous bill. Tough decisions are being made every day on police finances, yet union officials have a complete conflict of interest by being paid by the taxpayer. Workers’ rights are of course important, but it is not fair that payment of union members comes from the state to fund activities that will almost certainly go against the public interest.”
I agree with Mike insofar as the use of public money must be open to scrutiny and that £163,000 is a lot of public money to spend. It is around 6 to 8 times the amount of expenses that Mike has claimed each year since he was elected MP for Hove. That said the costs for the union representation represents about £1 each week per employee. MPs like police officers have all of their wages and any expenses paid from the public purse and so any decision taken by Sussex Police that involves money will lead to public money being spent. Just as any money spent on MPs such as Mike come from the public purse.
It might seem strange to Mike to suggest that the union costs are similar to professional and legal costs, particularly as he has been someone who has seen P&L costs as being for Lawyers or Accountants. However the reason for the comparison is that in business it is common practice for the side that commissions the work to pay the costs for both sides in the negotiation. This happens even when the side paying the bill is disadvantaged by the outcome of the work.
It is of course the case that the union expenses are used to protect the rights and argue the case for the workers they represent. Inevitably this can on occasion mean that the employer is funding an organisation that is working in a contrary direction to that which the employer would prefer. However this is usually done to ensure that rather than having individual negotiations over given issues, that the employer only has to sit down once on each issue. In any event this sum is small when compared to the overall cost of running the trade unions, and reflects only some of the functions they carry out, not the entirety of their work.
Perhaps it is no different to our money being used to fund the workings of a politician who has views that we don’t agree with. Mike like all MPs is partly representing his constituents during the working day and partly promoting the values of his party. However all of his pay comes from the public purse. Some of the things I end up paying for run counter to my principles and I believe are bad for Sussex. Just as Mike would like to have the funds for the trade unionists stopped, I would like to have the funds used to promote policies I don’t support stopped. However Mike and I live in a democracy and we depend on a well run police force which includes the need to maintain good relationships between the staff and the management. I don’t want a police officer to arrive at my door in an emergency who has just come from a particularly difficult negotiation with the Chief Constable.
Wake up sleepy Mike and focus your attention on matters that are a problem to your constituents, rather than things that help them. If you run out of things to do lets find out how much Parliament spends on things such as subsidised bar bills which may keep MPs from getting into trouble elsewhere but are of no real benefit to those of us who are paying for these little luxuries!