Concern over lack of record checks on county councillors

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Questions have been raised over a lack of background checks on councillors.

Members of Northumberland County Council carry out a range of duties in their role, including attending meetings, visiting schools and day centres, and helping residents with sensitive issues.

However, changes to legislation mean there is no longer a legal requirement for councillors to undergo Disclosure and Barring Service checks (DBS), previously known as CRB checks, which indicate if anyone has a criminal record or warning that could affect their ability to undertake duties with certain people, such as children or vulnerable adults.

At a recent county council Area Committee meeting, parent Mark Swinburn asked about the checks, but was told they were not allowed for councillors and members would not be left alone with children or vulnerable people.

However, Northumberland Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson says that some discretion has been left to authorities to continue the previous arrangements and enhanced checks can be made on councillors occupying positions deemed to be discharging social services and education functions.

He said this could be construed as including all members and called for checks to be put in place.

“Whilst the council cannot require any councillor to undertake an enhanced DBS check, requesting them to do so is consistent with the council’s safeguarding duties, as well as being supportive of the council’s and councillors’ role as a corporate parent and community champion,” he said.

“It is also vital that the community has confidence that the people it elects have no convictions which might otherwise bar them from being involved with children or adults.”