Camden Council finance boss defends �150k spend on unions

Camden Council’s finance boss has defended town hall policy of spending more than �150,000 on union staff and office space.

Cllr Theo Blackwell claimed the money could help avoid strikes and even said he wanted to find better premises for the nine GMB and Unison staff who are based in council-owned offices.

Cllr Blackwell said: “I have been talking about moving them into improved accommodation which I’m happy for the ratepayer to pay for.”

The offices in Phoenix Road, Somers Town, where the union staff are based are up for sale and in an “unacceptable state”.

His comments came after Conservative MP Priti Patel blasted the council for handing out “freebies” while funding is withdrawn from libraries and other services.

She uncovered the spending in a Freedom of Information request and said: “This is money that should be spent on the front line, repairing school buildings and fixing roads.”

Cllr Blackwell said the deal was historic and had been endorsed when Conservative and Liberal Democrats led the council before Labour won office at the last local elections.

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“Most large companies accommodate unions because they want to make sure we [the council] negotiate fairly,” he said.

“We don’t want people to go on strike, we don’t want expensive employment tribunals against us when we’re getting rid of a 1,000 jobs.

“We need that situation to be dealt with in a constructive way and part of that is this support from the unions.”