Police probe union’s books

POLICE have launched a probe into the Hartlepool branch of union Unison after claims of “financial irregularities”.

The branch supports around 3,500 public sector workers in the town – including the council, schools, housing association, probation, courts, benefits office and medical staff.

Many are currently involved in an industrial row over pensions and have threatened to strike, supported by the union they contribute to from their pay. But a national audit uncovered “anomalies” in the account registered to the Hartlepool branch, based in council offices in Church Street, believed to be thousands of pounds.

After an internal investigation threw up “serious concerns”, union chiefs called in police.

Police say inquiries are in their early stages and stress they are investigating accounts rather than an individual at this stage.

A Hartlepool Unison Local Government (LG) branch spokesman said: “Unison Northern can confirm that following a routine national audit of the branch finances of Unison Hartlepool LG some anomalies were identified that required further investigation.

“Consequently some serious concerns arose.

“Unison Northern can confirm that this matter has now been referred to the police for further investigation, and we would therefore not wish to prejudice the outcome of any criminal investigation initiated by those inquiries.”

Unison provides negotiating and bargaining support for 850,000 members across the UK, including those in Hartlepool, including around 1,750 employed by Hartlepool Borough Council.

Contributions to the union start from just 28p a week and rise depending on salary. A member earning between £17,000-£20,000 a year will contribute £11.50 per month, or £138 a year.

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Cleveland Police has received a complaint from a trade union branch concerning financial irregularities with the branch accounts and investigations are ongoing.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman added: “We are aware of the statement which has been issued by Unison and we are currently considering the implications of that.”