Calls are being made for elected politicians to go through the same criminal checks as staff on Mansfield District Council, in a new row that has blown up at the authority.
There was a social media outburst last night after it was announced that Labour councillor Lesley Wright had asked Mansfield Independent Forum councillor Mick Barton in a meeting if they council would consider putting Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks in place.
This is because the checks, which were formally known as Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, are currently not essential for district councillors.
Sonya Ward, Labour councillor for Bull Farm and Pleasley Hill, has launched a social media campaign and a survey to find out if the people of Mansfield would prefer their councillors to have the checks.
She said: “We’re constantly visiting homes,schools and places where there’s vulnerable people and it’s appropriate that we are CRB checked.
“A lot of people assume that we already are. So we wanted to know whether it was something that the executive of the council would ever consider bringing in.
“And when asked in a public meeting, they have said they’re not.”
She added that the Labour councillors were surprised to hear the rejection.
“I just think it’s about good practice and transparency. And the fact that we are a council for the public.”
“We would need to know if there are people out there with criminal convictions - especially for people dealing with perhaps personal and sensitive issues.”
Coun Barton, portfolio holder for public protection, defended the council’s decision by saying that some councillors, who are in contact with vulnerable people, undergo the checks, but that it’s not a legal requirement for all councillors.
He said: “I understand that people might have concerns, but the government legislates that it is not necessary for district councillors to be DBS checked. The DBS is aimed at providing a proportionate level of checks whilst making sure that there is effective protection for those who need it.
“There is quite detailed and specific criteria set out for when an employer should request a DBS for staff members. There is a legal definition of what is regulated activity which involves close and unsupervised contact with vulnerable groups, including children.
“Our current assessment, taken in account of the councillors profile, is that it does not fall within this criteria and that’s why it does not require a DBS.”
He added that there are currently no other district councils in the county that have compulsory checks and that it’s out of their hands.
“But, if individual councillors want to carry out their own CRB checks, there’s nothing stopping them doing that.
“I just don’t want think people to think that we’ve got councillors running around that are not fit for purpose.
We have to sign a declaration when we’re elected.”
Coun Wright, for Peafields, who asked the question, said that she was disappointed with the answer.
“This should not be a political issue. I just think it’s the right thing to do for the people who voted for us.
“I thought this would be an ideal thing where the whole council could be seen as working together.
“I just don’t understand why they’re this reluctant. I know we’re not legally obliged to get it done, but it shouldn’t be about laws - it should be about morals.
In addition, Abbott ward UKIP councillor, Barry Answer, has said that it’s not an issue that he has views about.
He said “I do have a CRB, but to be honest, I’m not bothered one way or the other.
“If they’re working with vulnerable people then they may need it - and I understand that there’s no legislation.
“But the public out there in Mansfield want something doing with the town - not all this stuff about CRBs.”
He also mentioned that the cost of a full DBS check is around £60 and that it would cost the council money that may not be completely necessary.
To have your say on this matter, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/TBRMVX2.