Councils faced with questions over proper use of background checks

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COUNCILS in Yorkshire carried out more than 50,000 background checks last year as the Government insisted its reforms would see a return to “common sense” levels.

Sheffield City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council each commissioned more than 8,000 checks, according to campaign group Big Brother Watch, although both can carry out checks on behalf of other organisations.

Kirklees Council also carried out more than 7,000 checks, while North Lincolnshire had just 261. Across England and Wales more than three million checks were carried out in 2011.

The report comes as the Government seeks to push through reforms which would limit the scope of criminal record checks, which cost between £26 and £44, after concern they were being used inappropriately.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The figures show how authorities a few miles from each other have wildly different approaches to background checks.

“When you consider in one year Kirklees council alone did more background checks than the British Red Cross or Barnardos and North Yorkshire County Council did more than the Girl Guides, you have to question whether the system is working properly.”

A Home Office spokesman said the current system of checks was “too bureaucratic and intrusive”.

“That is why we are reforming the regime to scale it back to common-sense levels so that the public are properly protected but the number of excessive checks are substantially reduced,” he said

Councils carrying out large numbers of checks insisted they were doing so for other organisations.