DBS checks not currently required for all Bedford councillors

Government is recommending checks are carried out – especially for councillors involved in education or social services
Borough Hall, Bedford. Image LDRSBorough Hall, Bedford. Image LDRS
Borough Hall, Bedford. Image LDRS

Bedford Borough Council does not currently require all councillors to undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service check, a meeting heard.

A report presented to the General Purposes Committee (Tuesday, March 5) said the Minister for Local Government wrote to upper tier and unitary local authorities in January to recommend that they adopt a requirement for enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks to be undertaken for some councillors.

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A DBS check is a way to check for someone’s criminal record or to help decide whether they are a suitable person to work in certain areas.

This includes deciding whether it is suitable for someone to work with children or vulnerable adults.

The Committee was being asked to recommend to Full Council that DBS checks are to be undertaken for portfolio holders with responsibility for education or social service functions, and any committee or other decision making body which discharges education or social services functions.

Councillor Charles Royden (Lib Dem, Brickhill) said: “Should all members not be DBS checked in view of the fact that they may have contact with people who are vulnerable?”

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Lee Phanco, chief officer for assessment, application and business support, said: “It isn’t a specific requirement at the moment. The government is now recommending it as best practice to adopt this enhanced check specifically for members that are involved in decisions relating to education or social services functions.

“If you want to extend it to councillors as a whole that would be the standard check rather than the enhanced one, but my understanding is that the council could do that if it wish to.” he said.

Councillor Dylan Simmons (Conservative, Bromham) asked: “What would happen if a councillor did then fail their DBS check?”

Mr Phanco said: “The intention would be that the check should be carried out before a member was appointed to that particular role. And the expectation would be if the DBS check revealed something that meant they were not suitable for the role that they wouldn’t be offered that role.

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“I suppose that there is a risk with members that are currently in those roles if something unexpected came out of a DBS check that there needs to be consideration given to whether they could continue in that particular role,” he said.

Councillor Andrea Spice (Conservative, Wixams & Wilstead) said: “What would be the position then if [a councillor] did fail a DBS check.

“[Would] they still be elected members but they just can’t do certain things or does that kick in a whole new issue?” she asked.

Committee members were told that this wasn’t something that could be answered during this meeting and would be answered another time.

The committee agreed to recommend the enhanced checks for certain portfolio holders to Full Council.