News, Politics

Support staff unions suspend School Cuts campaign backing until after election

Unions have suspended their support for the School Cuts campaign website to avoid falling foul of election rules.

Since the election was called on October 31, UNISON, Unite and the GMB Union have pulled their support for the website, which allows voters to see how much school funding has been cut in real terms at their local schools.

Their logos have been removed from the website, run by the National Education Union.

Jon Richards, head of education at UNISON, said this was because the Lobbying Act 2014 “restricts how much money unions and others can spend on campaigns in an election year”.

Unions and charities have to follow guidelines governing the amount of cash they can spend on campaigns during an election year.

The act makes it a legal requirement for all groups which spend over £20,000 in England on regulated campaigning in the year leading to an election to register with the Electoral Commission.

When a union is registered a £479,550 cap is also placed on its spending.

But if a union is part of a coalition like School Cuts, any spending on its work also counts as an individual spend for each union, meaning contributions would count twice towards their limit.

“Sadly, we’ve had to suspend support for vital campaigns like the School Cuts Coalition, but UNISON’s name will be back on the campaign on December 13,” Richards added.

A GMB spokesperson, who confirmed they had taken the same decision, added it remains “entirely supportive of the initiative to expose the impact of nearly a decade of cuts on our schools”.

If an organisation spends more than £250,000 it is required to report its spending to the Electoral Commission by June 12, while those spending under £250,000 have until March 12.

The NEU, which is also registered with the commission, confirmed the unions took the decision “as soon as the election was confirmed”.

They said building “a mass broad-based campaign” has “propelled the issue of education up the list of concerns for the public” and resulted in extra funding committed by political parties.

While the spokesperson explained maintenance costs for the website are minimal, the NEU has “willingly taken on the costs of the social media activities and leaflets that promote the website during the election period”.

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  1. Mark Watson

    I’ve just had another look at the NEU/School Cuts league table. It was produced as a party political tool after the election was called, claiming that “of the 100 worst-hit constituencies, 77 are Labour-held. Meanwhile of the 18 better-off constituencies, 13 are Conservative.”

    I reordered it to instead rank the constituencies in terms of how much income per pupil they received. I doubt the NEU intended it to be viewed this way. Mainly because it shows that the impact of the wicked self-interested Tory Government is that out of the 50 constituencies that received the most money, 90% are Labour-held. And out of the 50 constituencies that received the least money, 94% are Conservative-held.

    So not really a case of giving all the money to Conservative constituencies in reality …