WEST Berkshire Council banned more of its staff from being politically active, two months before the local elections in May. 

Certain staff cannot canvass for a political party, or comment and post on social media in support or against a party. 

If they do they could face disciplinary action or even be sacked. The ban applies 24 hours a day, inside and outside the workplace. 

Posts affected include those working in IT, school admissions, libraries, data protection, engineers and grounds maintenance. 

The change happened in February, two months before the local elections in May, when the council issued its new politically restricted posts policy and guidance. 

The guidance states: “Political restriction aims to ensure political neutrality and to prevent advice and decisions from being improperly influenced by separate political loyalties.”

James Gore, joint secretary of the West Berkshire Unison branch, said little to no consultation with staff took place. He believes the changes are in response to union newsletters emailed to council staff which criticised the Conservative party. 

Mr Gore said: “This change was rushed through … specifically to silence post-holders whose views, canvassing activity or political status in local parties were perceived as potentially problematic in the run up to the elections.” 

Some staff, who asked not to be named, have appealed the decision to make their posts politically sensitive, but this was dismissed. Those staff now intend to take the dispute to an employment tribunal. 

Tom Tunney, Newbury Labour party secretary, said: “This is of enormous concern. A reminder the turnout this year was just 36 per cent and this move could be expected to disproportionately disadvantage opposition parties.”

Peta Stoddart-Crompton, council spokeswoman, said: “Legislation prescribes which posts must be politically restricted and the council acts in accordance with the legislative framework. 

“The council also reviews the list of politically restricted posts on an annual basis to ensure this is kept up to date.”