Merton Council accused of funding 'socialist propaganda'
A trade union has drawn sharp criticism for using taxpayers’ money for spreading “socialist propaganda” to attack the Government.
Last week's full council meeting was heard that the GMB union has written and distributed newsletters in Merton’s Civic Centre in which they openly attack the Conservative-led Government’s policy of deficit reduction by cutting public services.
Councillor Debbie Shears, leader of Merton’s opposition Conservative Group, called on the council leader, Stephen Alambritis, to publically condemn the GMB.
She said: "It is a disgrace that Merton Council is being used as an agency for the printing and distribution of socialist propaganda.
“Each time the legal officer has found the union guilty of displaying anti-Conservative propaganda. This must now stop.
“Local residents would like to know why [Coun Alambritis] is supporting the use of their hard earned money - raked in through Labour's excessive council tax - to fund overtly political propaganda rather than spending it on the essential services which his party are insisting on cutting."
On three occasions, GMB newsletters were found within the Civic Centre, in Morden, in which the union attacks the Conservatives.
One such letter, published in March, urged people to vote for Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate for London Mayor, which may have broken the law by breaching purdah – the pre-election period in which politicians must not use their public office for political campaigning.
The latest letter, published earlier this month, provided a link to a trade union-funded website called searchthemoney.com and said: "Want to know who is putting money in the Conservative MPs' pockets?"
Keir Greenaway, secretary of GMB’s Merton branch, denied taxpayers’ money was used to pay for the newsletters and said Coun Alambritis “would probably like to see the back of the trade union newsletters too.”
He said: “No council tax money is used in the production of our newsletters, indeed the unions pays the council to print the newsletters thus bringing business and money in to the council in a financially difficult time.
“When the Conservatives held the majority in the council they were well aware of this too and no issue was raised at the time.
“I am surprised that this issue ranks so highly on the political agenda at the moment.
“I know from my members what really concerns them at the moment are the Hospital cuts the Con-Dem government are pushing through and how this is going to affect healthcare locally, with the possible closure of services at St Helier.”
Merton Council's cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mark Allison, said the Civic Centre had a "very good print team" which was encouraged to take external jobs in order to make money for the council.
Coun Allison said: "If the Tories want to use our print facilities, we will give them a competitive quote too.
"They obviously hate trades union members, but nobody has done anything illegal, although we do ask that no political leaflets are left lying around in public parts of the civic centre. #
"That applies to Tories, anti-Tories and people in the middle like me alike.”