Criminal record checks: councillor hits out over EDDC’s ‘lack of urgency’

East Devon District Council is not acting quickly enough to implement a criminal record checks policy for councillors, it is being claimed.

Councillor Ian Hall, who proposed the move, has hit out over a ‘lack of urgency’, saying a process needs to be in place to ‘uncover any unspent criminal convictions or cautions’.

The ward member for Axminster is challenging council leaders and its cabinet to act now, pointing out months have passed ‘with no visible progress’.

Conservatives Group members on the council unanimously backed a proposal initially put forward by Cllr Hall 10 months ago. However, when the checks were expected to be implemented earlier this year, Conservatives lost control of the authority.

The proposal aims to ensure that anyone elected to the council in the future would individually arrange to undergo a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The results would be voluntarily disclosed and published on East Devon District Council’s website.

The checks are designed to uncover unspent cautions, reprimands, warnings and convictions.

Cllr Hall said: “I am determined to ensure, through this DBS checks policy, that there would be a much-reduced risk of an ‘inappropriate’ individual slipping through the net. I am disappointed and concerned that the new administration is in no hurry to put this agreed policy into effect.”

Issuing the challenge, Cllr Hall urged: “Give us some real transparency where it matters most – around the integrity of those who are running this district council and indeed all other councillors, of whatever party or political persuasion.”

He added: “I have undergone an enhanced DBS check for Devon County Council, and I have also completed a voluntary check for EDDC. I want to see all my council colleagues follow my lead.”

In February 2017, the council adopted a joint safeguarding policy designed to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Cllr Hall said: “Last autumn, I was pleased that voters would in future have confidence that any councillor, who has undergone the check, has no unspent criminal convictions or cautions.

“This would ensure that each would be a fit and proper person to represent them, as well as playing a full part in the important business of running EDDC.

“Conservatives took the lead on this as we believe the public are entitled to openness and transparency from the people who look after their interests and set council policy in East Devon.”

East Devon District Council has responded to this story. A spokesperson said: “The council agreed a motion last October supporting councillors in obtaining their own basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check from May 2019 and they could voluntarily disclose the results to the council and we would publish them on our website. This is a personal matter for each councillor.”

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