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POLITICAL RESTRICTIONS SHOULD GO NOLAN TOLD

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Restrictions which exclude 40,000 senior officers in local government from political activity should be scrapped, L...
Restrictions which exclude 40,000 senior officers in local government from political activity should be scrapped, Local Government Information Unit director Dennis Reed told the Nolan committee on Tuesday.

The provisions of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 restrict officers from political activity and from participating in many single-issue campaigns if they are paid more than£25,000 a year or if they regularly speak on behalf of or advise the council, whatever their salary.

'We do feel that is an overreaction to a problem. There is a clear question of human rights here,' said Mr Reed. 'The current restrictions need to be torn up and we need to start from scratch.'

Mr Reed believes that apart from chief executives and heads of communication, officers who do not hold politically sensitive posts within the council should be free to campaign.

Councils have to keep a list of all their politically restricted staff, and those who defy the restriction face disciplinary action and dismissal.

Unison has been fighting a long-running battle against the government to lift the restrictions, and expects to have its case heard by the European Court of Human Rights next year.

The union is taking test cases on behalf of four of its members, who were employed in the following councils when their claims were lodged: Mobin Ahmed, a solicitor at Hackney LBC; Ray Bentley, corporate policy officer at Plymouth City Council; David Brough, a committee services officer at Hillingdon LBC; and Dennis Perrin, a surveyor at Devon CC.

Unison would not disclose their individual case histories, but said at least one of the applicants had retired since their case was heard in the domestic courts early this decade. One of the officers had been prevented from campaigning against the closure of a local hospital.

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