Basildon councillors may face ‘basic’ criminal record checks – but deputy leader wants deeper investigations

BASILDON Council may write to Government to raise concerns about the lack of checks on local councillors.

People elected to serve as borough councillors only have to undergo ‘basic level’ criminal record checks, a council report said.

The report was written after independent councillor Kerry Smith, now deputy leader of Basildon Council, called earlier this year for the introduction of DBS checks – formerly known as CRB checks – for all elected members.

In June, the council’s Housing and Communities Committee approved the development of a new policy for subjecting councillors to the checks.

Subsequent investigatiosn by civil servants has identified that ‘borough council elected members are only eligible to undergo basic level DBS checks’.

This is because the areas of work which require an enhanced level of DBS check – such as working in education or social services – are handled by county councillors, rather than borough councillors.

A survey of 19 other local authorities similar to Basildon found 18 did not carry out any checks and one carried out basic checks.

The committee will be asked next week whether it wants to adopt the basic level checks for Basildon borough councillors.

Members will also be asked whether they wish to ‘write to central Government to outline concerns regarding the minimal options’. Checks

Cllr Smith, who chairs the committee, told the YA he had already drafted a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, in the hope that members would vote to send it.

Asked whether he would expect the results of the checks to be made available to the public, he said:

“I don’t think we can legally make them public because there have been references to human rights and the right to privacy.

“But at least if there is a bad apple in our flock, we at the council will know about it and will be able to safeguard the public. And if there are any bad apples out there thinking of standing for the council, knowing that there will be criminal record checks should act as a deterrent.

“But as a group leader, I will expect each member of my group to publish on the council website a copy of their criminal record check, or at least something confirming that there is no criminal conviction.

“I will also expect any member of my group to undergo the full check, not the basic one – and I hope that other groups will whip their members to do the same.”

The Homes and Communities Committee will meet in public at the Bas Centre next Tuesday, September 17, at 7pm.

Charles Thomson

Chief Reporter Email: basildon@yellowad.co.uk