The Conservative Party's manifesto for Sunderland has included plans to introduce DBS checks for councillors, as well as cuts to the council 'gravy train'
The “scandal” provoked by a city councillor pleading guilty to a child sex offence has led to calls for criminal record checks for all councillors.
The policy is at the heart of the Conservative Party’s manifesto for Sunderland in next month’s round of local elections.
The Washington South ward of disgraced Labour Party councillor Paul Middleton is among those being contested on Thursday, May 2.
The seat was declared vacant in January after he pleaded guilty to attempting to sexually communicate with a child, who was later revealed to have been an undercover police officer.
Middleton, 44, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
A court heard he contacted the profile of ‘Maddie’ on a chat room, not realising it was a decoy profile set up by police.
Coun Robert Oliver, leader of the city’s Tory opposition, said the DBS initiative was intended to improve public trust in Sunderland City Council.
“We’re saying we need more openness and transparency,” he said, “and if everyone had a check that would prove they didn’t have a conviction.
“It would be the Conservative councillors leading by example.
“We couldn’t force people to have one, but it would be our policy to do so and we would then have to go to the whips of each [political] group and see whether they would enforce it or not.
“We would, and we would say to any candidate they would have to have that – if other groups didn’t that would be up to them.”
Coun Oliver claimed current restrictions on council candidates with recent convictions standing were “just something you sign” which was simply accepted “on trust”.
According to the proposal put forward in the manifesto, the council’s chief executive would be asked to “explore the means by which this can be introduced”.
A motion on criminal record checks was also approved by the full city council in March after being put forward by the opposition party.
Other proposals in the document include:
- Scrapping the city council’s planned move to a new civic centre on the Vaux site – instead the Conservatives have suggested taking £11m from the reported £41m budget for the scheme to fund a new seafront leisure centre and using the remainder to pay for a new council HQ elsewhere
- More free parking in the city centre
- Extend the Metro to Washington
- Bring back weekly bin collections
A further flagship policy would be ‘deep cuts to the council’s gravy train’, with allowances, meals and even the overall number of city councillors in the Tories’ sights.
“Our manifesto is an opportunity to breathe new life into the city,” said Coun Oliver
“We’ve had a Labour council for 46 years and we feel the city isn’t moving forward fast enough.
“We also feel there isn’t enough transparency and openness [in the city council].
“We will be cutting some of the spending, like £50,000 on the Spice Girls, but also things like DBS checks for all councillors so residents can feel they’re there for them.”
Publishes on 11 APR 2019
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