November 2004 Full Council meeting - C. Cooke
CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECKS FOR COUNCIL MEMBERS
It has become obvious to me that Criminal Record Checks cannot be applied to the work done by Councillors. And at £34 each, £1020 per year, each year, every year - and that's just for us Councillors. Taxpayers money will be wasted - purely - it seems to me - to make people think we are being Oh-so-careful - when in reality the information disclosed will be useless, the getting of that information cumbersome, and the keeping and updating of that information a bureaucratic nonsense.
Normally this information is used by a prospective employer or organisation taking voluntary workers. They have every right to use that information to decide whether to allow a person into their group or not.
But Councillors are already in the job - so to speak. They cannot be removed. So how is the Council going to control this? Here are some questions.
1. I arrange my own timetable and agendas. I get my own casework. Is the Council really going to try to instruct me that I can only do that with their permission? Not going to happen is it?!
2. Almost exclusively the Standards Committee talked about children - there is also mention of vulnerable people. What Council led activity could I possibly be asked to go on that would lead to fears about any criminal record I may have? I have been on this Council now for over a year and a half and there is not one occasion where such information could have been used.The Council in it's own Recruitment Policy says Criminal Record Checks should only be used for posts involving substantial, unsupervised access to vulnerable people. Quite right! Does any one of us Councillors fall into that category? Not one! And if we did - guess what - we would be asked by that organisation concerned to take a Criminal Record Check. Why? Because they would not be allowed to see Tamworth Council’s one.
3. According to Criminal Record Bureau codes of practice after six months these records must be shredded. Obvious really, because the only reason for getting a C.R.C. is to see whether an organisation should employ somebody - or not! And what about the next six months? Perhaps it going to be done after every election? But surely it should be done on all candidates before they are elected?
As Councillors are elected and provided for by other laws of the land no Councillor could possibly be sacked or restricted by any Criminal Record Check. Other laws are there to decide this.
4. Apparently there can sometimes be further information in the form of a letter alongside the normal Disclosure. This even the so-called "relevant member" cannot be allowed to see - let alone anybody else. How could the Council possibly act on that information without breaking this Code of Practice? Answer? They can’t!!
5. The Council is under duty not to disclose to any third parties - except those it acts as an umbrella organisation to - which severely restricts the use of any such information in any case. Does the Council act as an umbrella employer at all? Simple answer - No!!
6. Now - just supposing - what are we going to do if a Councillor is actually found to have a criminal record? Sack them? Perhaps should they be checked before being allowed even to stand as candidates? Now what law could enforce that? How do we let the voters know if a candidate has a criminal record - how can we stop them standing? Answer - we can’t!! There are other laws that do this.
7. What possible activity can I, as a councillor, be involved in that could allow the Council to instruct me not to take part? There is none!
8. So how’s this CRB scheme going to work then? What if a Councillor does something he has been told not to do by the Council? Take him before the Standards Committee? Without them being able to know what his criminal record is - or is not? Because certainly the Council Officers will not be allowed to tell other Councillors any such “confidential” information. You can see that this has all the hallmarks of a farce.
9. Even more. What if a Councillor refuses to allow a criminal record check? You are calling this scheme “compulsory”. Just because you vote for it to be compulsory can’t make it so. No Councillor needs be forced to apply for a CRB check against his or her will. Might we treat them as a criminals? Can we force Councillors to have these checks done? Can we stop them even coming into Marmion House even? No! Of course not. This is silly. It really has not been thought out properly.
This is futile - mere, crass, Gesture Politics - at the taxpayers expense.
Many Councillors, in the course of their activities have already had Criminal Record Checks done on them sometime or another. I certainly have. For the internal use of that organisation only. If Tamworth Council wants to use these checks for its own internal purposes (although it’s hard to think what that purpose may be) then it should say so - because it will be of no use at all for any outside groups or individuals. And where will this stop? Might we also insist Government ministers or other visiting dignitaries also have Criminal Record Checks? Would Prince Charles perhaps? If not - what's he got to hide???
One final word. If councillors in this town had any sort of business to hide I am quite certain that enough people would know about it to make it well known very soon. I also know that many respectable people in industry these days do have criminal records purely because of the deluge of new rules and regulations. Who’s going to decide what is a relevant criminal offence and what isn't?
This scheme is simply unworkable. It’s a sham to fool the public. It will either be generally ignored or will cause more trouble than it's worth. I worry that this is not the end of the story. I worry that politics will get involved and I worry that increasing restrictions and rules will follow on from this.
That is why I am asking fellow councillors to vote against this scheme.
Please Note - To date Cllr. Chris Cooke has not submitted to a Tamworth Council Criminal Record Check. More telling - despite their voting for the “compulsory scheme” a number of other Councillors also never had a Tamworth Council Criminal Record Check done. No action has ever been taken against them.
Furthermore Chris Cooke will continue to expose the shambles these Criminal Record Checks are. And the fact that all they are doing is recycling taxpayers money into the coffers of the Government contractors who run the Criminal Records Agency - as well as wasting bureaucratic time on Tamworth Council running this nonsense scheme.
CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECKS
Gesture Politics - Expensive Nonsense
In 2004 all Tamworth Councillors (except Cllr Chris Cooke of course) voted for the compulsory checking of the Criminal Records of all Councillors.
This below is what I said at that time: