THE trade union budget at Southend Council is set to be slashed in half.

The proposed cut would mean neither Unison nor the GMB, which represent about half of council staff, will be able to fund a full-time officer.

It is hoped the £45,000 saving will help fill some of the £10million hole in its budget.

Claire Wormald, secretary of Unison’s Civic Centre branch, said: “We are fighting to challenge it because the membership will not have the support they have on a day-to-day basis now.

“They will not have the representation through the changes that are currently taking place and they won’t have support through other issues.”

The Tories claim the 50 per cent cut will bring it in line with other similar sized unitary authorities, while still fulfilling its obligations under employment law.

However Ms Wormald, who was a youth worker before taking on union duties full-time, said the proposal broke agreements the council had with Unison and the arbitration service ACAS.

The council pays trade union officers’ salaries while they carry out union duties instead of their regular work.

Ms Wormald said the change could force the union members to chose representatives based on who they could afford, rather who is best for the role.

Council leader Nigel Holdcroft pointed out union members already pay membership fees towards representation and questioned whether the taxpayer should subsidise them.

He said: “We are looking at all parts of the budget and this has been a significant sum.

“We are contributing far more than many authorities of a similar type.

“We are not suggesting scrapping the support altogether, but we are reducing it in line with other authorities.”