Facility time is one of those strange parts of our politics/law that is not talked about much. Probably because it is hard to justify. Apparently Scout leaders volunteer. Lifeboatmen volunteer. School governors volunteer. Lots of people give their time for others without reward. But, trade unionists have won paid time at work to do their union business. It is called facility time. Trades union types get very huffy when people question this arrangement so are quite happy that it is kept quietly hidden from view.
Earlier this year the TaxPayersâ€™ Alliance estimated that this facility time was worth some Â£85 million across the UK state. They asked government bodies how much staff time was allocated. Ealing council answered 3.0 FTE. The TPA used a figure of Â£27,083.69 to cost this labour and thus came up with a figure of Â£81,251 for Ealing. At the time I suggested that this was an underestimate and that the figure was rather higher. Little did I know.
At the last council meeting the leader of the Conservative group on the council, Jason Stacey, asked the following question:
Could the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance please give the figure for the budget for Trade Union facility time?
Non teaching employees Trade Union Facilities budget (including non teaching unions in schools)
Trade Unions facilities budget for Teachers
So the total bill is Â£250K. This kind of money would buy you six to eight experienced teachers or social workers. Instead the council is paying union reps to organise at work. Canâ€™t they do this in their own time?