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January 13 2020

Local councillors should have compulsory background checks - says local councillor

A local councillor has said that anyone elected to stand as a councillor should have a background check before being able to carry out their duties. 

Cllr Donna Greaves, a member of The Independents in St Helen's, UK said she has visited numerous schools and residents in their home since being elected last May, despite never being asked to undergo a basic Disclosure and Barring Service check.

As reported in the St. Helens Star, Cllr Greaves said she raised the issue with various senior council figures and during a Local Government Association training session for new councillors.

“When I was newly elected, it came as a shock to me that councillors do not have to be DBS checked,” she said.

“I raised this with the previous chief executive in July who said it was down to the councillors themselves to agree to this, which was later confirmed by the current leader, advising me it was being looked into.

“The general consensus is that you will probably become a school governor so a DBS check will be carried out then.”

Cllr Greaves has raised the issue again after carrying out a DBS check in preparation for becoming a school government. The council have however said there is no legal requirement for elected members to carry out a DBS check.

But Cllr Greaves says this needs to change, “My concerns here are not just about protecting the public we serve nor are they to be digging out passed misdemeanours of serving councillors,” she said.

“This is more about being open and transparent with the monitoring officer that should there be something that could be used to coerce, manipulate, persuade a councillor into acting differently when carrying out their duties then this needs to be disclosed so the monitoring officer can protect the councillor, the local authority and the public of St Helens.

“Surely there needs to be a moral standard that every councillor has been DBS checked to protect all parties, including the integrity of the local authority?

“Even with disclosures, a simple risk assessment on file will allow business as usual to take place but in an open and honest culture between the councillor and the monitoring officer.

“At present it is up to the councillors to decide if they want to introduce it – but I feel this needs to change”

A spokesman for St Helens Council said: “There is no legal requirement for an elected member to complete a DBS check as they do not carry out regulated activity when carrying out their role as a councillor.”

Image: Michael Heavey [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]