THE leader of York’s Conservatives has called for a cut in council funding for trade unions – but city leaders say this would be an attack on staff and could increase costs.

Coun Chris Steward, who leads City of York Council’s Tory group, claimed the cost of supporting union activities at the authority – which is set to make 240 job cuts over the next two years as it looks to save £23 million – went more than £20,000 over its £107,000 budget this year.

Coun Steward, pictured, said the cost of office space for unions would see the bill rise to about £150,000. He said: “This should be paid for by union members through their subscriptions rather than council taxpayers — we cannot afford to spend £150,000 a year now on trade union time when this money should instead be used for basic services.”

Coun Dafydd Williams, the Labour authority’s cabinet member for finance, performance and customer service, said union time was required by employment law, its cost had been “consistent” for several years and removing it could increase lost working hours. He said the council wanted to work with staff representatives during “a difficult time of redundancies”.

He said: “This is a recycled attack which reflects the importance any Conservative council would place on its workforce – it would be a huge backwards step were they ever in a position to implement this proposal.”