Wigan councillors asked to undergo background checks

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

Councillors will be asked to undergo background checks after proposals to ‘boost public confidence’ were voted through.

Leader Coun David Molyneux said Wigan residents would be ‘quite shocked’ to know elected members are not subject to mandatory disclosure and barring service (DBS) assessment.

He told a meeting of the full council the town hall would cover the costs but independent members voiced concerns about how the information would be used.

Coun Molyneux added councillors who had undergone the basic checks would have it stated on their online profiles on the town hall’s website.

Ahead of his motion being voted through, he said: “You either agree to it or you don’t. The public will expect all members to be DBS checked. I think it’s important.

“I think members of the public would be quite shocked to find out that councillors are not DBS checked, it’s as simple as that.”

He said part of a councillor’s role is to visit schools, care facilities and hold surgeries with the public and he had recently undergone a check through his role as a school governor.

However, independent members of the chamber voiced concerns over the council’s use of data and raised issues of ‘trust’ with officers.

Coun Paul Maiden, who represents Hindley Green, raised the issue of the council being subject to complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

He said: “I’m uncomfortable with this council having any more data than they’ve currently got. At the moment it is shambolic.”

And Coun Steve Jones, who represents Bryn, said he did not trust senior officers with ‘this kind of information’.

Deputy leader Coun Keith Cunliffe said the information is confidential and suggested enhanced checks should be used for members who have roles with extra responsibility.

He said: “Issues of safeguarding have risen in the public perception and I think it’s something we can do to give some confidence to the public.”

The motion was backed by members of the Conservative opposition although leader Coun Michael Winstanley said it should go through the overview and scrutiny process.

He said: “What I would like to see is a proper report goes through the audit and governance committee, goes to cabinet and returns to full council.

“It’s not enforceable by law, we know that, but I think for a scrutiny process and good governance, we should have a policy to back it up, which outlines what would happen, who would do it and what that data would and wouldn’t be used for.”

Coun Cunliffe said he ‘did not see a necessity’ for that given that it would be a voluntary scheme.