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Public Sector Workers and Political Activity

Comment 7th September 2010

Public sector workers – civil servants, council employees and others – are banned from any kind of "political" activity if above a particular grade. They may not "engaging in a range of political activities" even if they do not brief elected officers, the press or public, and the activity is totally unrelated to their work or even the work of their employer. For example, a computer technician on spinal point 44 and working for the local council cannot legally write to the local newspaper supporting a campaign to keep a local school open because political parties at the education authority would have differing views, making the matter "political".  If just one MP or councillor expresses a dissenting opinion the matter is political.

Technically it is not even legal for any public sector worker on Scale Point 44 or above (about £30,000) to post an idea here or even click on the vote button. This is absurd. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (section 2) was introduced to stop abuses where council workers had phantom jobs and were really party workers getting council pay. This abuse is rare today and well understood to be corrupt.

It might be argued that exemptions can be obtained by applying. But in many cases people want to keep work and politics separate, and applying for official permission ends up labelling people.

In some organisations people on SC44 are many levels below the top of the organisation, have never met the elected officers and do not brief press, public or elected officials. The definition needs to be tightened. The top 2 tiers of management should be banned from political activity. Departments and people specifically involved in briefing elected officers, public or press on political matters should be banned. Other people should NOT be banned.

Why does this matter?

A large section the population cannot legally write a letter to a paper, sign a petition, support a local campaign or support percieved injustice. The rules are too wide ranging and anti-democratic.

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