Willis’s obsessions have now reached such heights of fantasy that nobody can take him seriously on anything!
Labour’s Leader on Reading Borough Council has dismissed as |”fantasy” Cllr Richard Willis’s latest ludicrous accusations on his blog.
She says: “Cllr Willis has spent months on his blog pushing out bile about the Labour Party, most of which I ignore as I have more important things to do. If he had spent more time working on the things that matter he might not have made such a hash of his council portfolio – he might not have made mistakes: charging people for parking overnight in their own street at his parking metres, only to have to do a u-turn when they protested; he might not have proposed an unworkable scheme to deal with those people who block pavements, which penalises hard-working residents, which he has no idea how to extricate himself from – I could go on, but his latest spurious allegations from his far right perspective must be shown for the fantasies they are. He accuses the Labour Party of corruption because, alongside public bodies of all political persuasions, it recognises the role of the Trades Unions in good staffing relations and service delivery! Even the more reactionary Tory authorities make some contribution to allowing their staff to have proper representation! This is not only a disgraceful slur on the Labour Party, but also on staff at the Council who work very hard to foster good staff relations and develop sensible personnel policies, and who put service delivery for residents first.
For the record:
1. Reading Council has what is known as a “Facilities agreement”, which allows recognised Trade Unions the opportunity to second full-time officials in the workplace and is good practice, and is in place in most Local authorities and other public bodies, including the health service and the Police. (in fact the Taxpayers Alliance published a detailed schedule of the sums involved in October last year) The Ministry of Defence for example allocates some £4million for the secondment of union officials. Many Private sector organisations also use the same system to negotiate and work with their workforces . Facilities agreements between Councils of all political persuasions and recognised trade unions are the norm, not the exception, as Councils wish to promote good industrial relations and to ensure that individual members of staff are properly represented in disciplinary cases and so on. The amount spent by each authority varies, depending on the size and the level of services provided and whether or not the services are provided in house. It is also the case that where there is no full-time agreement then arrangements have to be made for trade union members to have time off work on an ad hoc basis, which is quite disruptive to the services, which is why we always felt having continuity of representation was important. Even Cllr Willis’s Coalition cronies in Reading are not considering cutting the funding completely.
2. Reading has until now always enjoyed a constructive relationship with the trades unions and they have over many years made valuable suggestions about how money can be saved. Indeed only last year the Trades Unions in Reading made a very constructive proposal on how the council could save money on staff travel costs, a much larger sum than the cost of the facilities agreement. The fact we have avoided industrial action at a local level is also because there has been a relationship of trust in negotiations. It does not mean there are not tensions, but over and over again the Unions have worked on issues with an underlying aim of providing good services for Reading Residents as well as good working conditions for staff.
3. Any suggestion that in Reading this is “secret” is absolute nonsense. Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors in Reading have been fully aware of the work of union officials through the Local Joint Forum, which has always worked on an all-party basis. In fact Richard Willis was a member for some time himself!
4. The Council’s accounts are prepared and presented to members by the Director of Resources and go to the level of detail that he considers appropriate, and if Cllr. Willis considers that this particular item should be given prominence he should take the matter up with the Director.(Incidentally, the published accounts for 2009-10 were signed by Tory Leader, Cllr. Cumpsty, as the current Leader of the Council, and he presumably thought them to be an adequate reflection of the Council’s activity). Of course the published accounts do not give individual salaries, but overall budgets, in line with guidance. The Council’s auditors have just given the Council a clean bill of health for the way in which financial matters are handled for the year 2009/10 when Labour was in control.
5. The Director of Resources is also legally and properly responsible for authorising all payments made by the Council, which he has to certify are consequential on decisions taken by members in accordance with legislation, primarily the Local Government Act 1976. Like Cllr. Willis’s earlier blog which talked of “nefarious ways” in which public money has been spent, his implication is that the expenditure on facilities agreements is in some way improper and that is a serious slur on the professional integrity of Council officers.. There is no place for this sort of behaviour in local government and it is time Cllr Cumpsty reined Cllr Willis in and told him to moderate his behaviour..
6. Cllr. Willis further complains about a leaflet produced by UNISON which very clearly shows why the Tory spin about the national deficit is misleading. He tries to imply that public money is involved. That is ridiculous. UNISON has a political fund for such campaigns, which comes from a voluntary political levy on its members.
This hysterical nonsense from Cllr. Willis is because he knows that the Tories and the Coalition are facing a tough time as the public begin to feel the full extent of the politically driven cuts – cuts which are so deep and so severe that they will undermine the economy and damage the lives of many in our communities. No amount of childish ranting from Cllr Willis will cover that up.