Councillors unite over need for PVG checks

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Councillors have said it is time for every elected member to be passed ‘fit for duty’ under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) legislation, after a story in last week’s Oban Times.

Concerns raised by dad Angus Files over access to information about his 19-year-old son’s private information led him to a Freedom of Information disclosure showing that two councillors were members of a committee without valid PVG certificates in place.

Mr Files, who has reported the matter to Police Scotland, said the local authority had now told him that Anne Horn had completed her certification and ‘we await confirmation of the position regarding Councillor Julie McKenzie, whose application has been submitted to Disclosure Scotland‘.

This week councillors Mary-Jean Devon and Elaine Robertson said that the PVG certification should be in place for all members of the council. Breege Smyth and Julie McKenzie agreed, with Ms Smyth saying the SNP group was considering making membership of the scheme mandatory.

The Oban Times did not name the councillors, but in a press statement from the SNP, the political group confirmed who they were.

The statement read: ‘A recent Freedom of Information request from a member of the public to the council brought to the attention of council staff that two SNP members of the Community Services Committee, Councillor Julie McKenzie and Councillor Anne Horn, did not have up-to-date PVGs.

‘Argyll and Bute Council and both councillors acted quickly to ensure that this was rectified.

‘At no point was there any non-disclosure of the names of the two councillors.’

In her statement, given to The Oban Times, Councillor McKenzie said: ‘My completed PVG paperwork was returned and went missing somewhere between the municipal buildings in Oban and Kilmory last October.

‘I was not notified about this until recently and obviously [I] am also extremely concerned that copies of personal documents have also gone missing. I have returned a second set of completed documents to council staff and they are currently being processed.’

The original FOI request laid out the timeline of councillors being given paperwork to be completed.

Charles Reppke, head of governance and law, stated: ‘I am able to confirm that Councillor Horn was first contacted by email on June 4, 2014, following the Community Services Committee being set up.

‘The email was sent out to all the members of the committee advising that they needed to be members of the PVG Scheme.  They were asked to confirm whether or not they were already a member so that they could be sent the correct form for completion.

‘Councillor Horn was also sent further emails [September 12, 2014, March 2, June 10 and August 25, 2015] asking her to confirm the position as it related to her. On February 5, 2016, she was sent a letter enclosing an application form to join the PVG scheme and an existing PVG scheme member form. She was sent the further reminder emails on May 16, 2016, and October 5, 2016. Councillor Horn has now completed her application form which has been submitted to Disclosure Scotland.

‘With regard to Councillor McKenzie, she was sent an email on May 16, 2016, following her appointment to the committee to find out whether or not she was already a member of the scheme.
‘She never replied and was sent the two sets of forms by post on October 6, 2016, and asked to complete whichever was applicable. She did not return either. She was handed the forms again within the last fortnight but has not yet returned either of them.’

 

Councillor Horn told The Oban Times: ‘I have completed my PVG documentation and the council has a copy confirming there is no obstacle to me working with vulnerable groups. I hope this helps assure whoever was concerned enough to make this inquiry.

‘Vulnerable people have always been a priority for me and I will always act in their best interest.’