Row over trade union cuts sees Barking and Dagenham Council leader branded BNP supporter

Trade union members protest outside Barking Town Hall

Trade union members protest outside Barking Town Hall - Credit: Archant

A bitter row has broken out between the council and union bosses after plans to axe trade union posts were announced under fresh cuts to services, with one union member accusing the all-Labour council of supporting the BNP.

The war of words began when GMB senior organiser Keith Williams wrote to Barking and Dagenham Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell in advance of the cabinet meeting on Tuesday last week, where proposals to find £53.5million in savings were announced.

In letters, seen by the Post, he claimed the proposal to cut as many as three jobs was like “acting on [the BNP’s] initiative” due to the right-wing party’s ongoing petition calling for all trade union posts to be axed in the borough.

There are eight trade union posts on the council, estimated to costs about £320,000, with the GMB controlling six of the posts.

Mr Williams wrote: “As we both know, following intervention by the London Labour Party the petition purportedly received from the BNP calling on the council to cut the jobs of those on trade union secondment was withdrawn.

“However, it would appear that despite this you are now acting on their initiative.”

The claim was strongly refuted in a written response from Cllr Rodwell, who was part of the Labour campaign to oust the far-right party from the local authority four years ago after it had won 12 seats.

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He said the council had seen its budget reduced by £90million over the past four years, adding: “I take objection to your suggestion that my colleagues and I are remotely sympathetic to the BNP.

“Many of us were at the heart of the campaign that saw off the BNP in 2010 and I know they will share my sentiments about your comments.”

The recently-elected leader said in a statement to the Post that union members were “jumping the gun” and that consultation over the proposals had still to take place with no definite decisions made at this time.

“I understand people being concerned for their jobs,” he added.

“I am always prepared to listen which is why I have met the local trade unions, including the GMB, no less than six times since May as well as all members of staff over the summer and again in the last couple of weeks.

“My biggest priority is to do everything possible to safeguard services for the residents of the borough. They come first.”