Wakefield Council to continue DBS checks for new elected members

Newly elected district councillors in Wakefield will continue to be subject to criminal background checks.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 10:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 10:28 am

A standards committee decided against halting the practice on Friday, after councillors agreed such a move could hurt public confidence.

It's not a legal requirement for councils to vet their newly elected members, although candidates are automatically barred from standing if they've had a prison sentence of three months or more within the last five years.

Some councils, including Kirklees and York, do not carry out any criminal background checks on elected members, the committee was told

County Hall in Wakefield

By contrast, Wakefield has carried out basic DBS checks on all new councillors since 2008.

Senior councillors and those who serve on the children and young people scrutiny committee are subject to enhanced checks.

The council's chief legal officer, Gillian Marshall, told the meeting that although it was not required by law, maintaining DBS checks was "about striking a balance between public confidence and the legal position."

She acknowledged many people would be surprised that the checks are not compulsory, adding, "It's one of those areas where there's a mismatch between what the public thinks happens and what the law actually says.

"I'd never want anyone to think Wakefield Council didn't care about safeguarding."

A change in the law means that councillors would have to carry out the checks themselves and hand the information over to the authority's chief monitoring officer.

Councillors would have to pay the standard £23 for the check themselves and then be reimbursed by the local authority.

Those who do not comply would be reported to their parties and may face a complaint under the Members Code of Conduct.

Local Democracy Reporting Service