Fundraising: Council defies CRB and insists on checks on street fundraisers

Middlesbrough Council has said it will defy Criminal Records Bureau guidelines and continue refusing to grant street fundraising licences to organisations that decline to submit to criminal records checks.

The council is refusing to back down even though the CRB has told the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association that the checks are not needed (Third Sector, 24 May).

The PFRA has accused the council of misunderstanding the purpose of the checks and of obstructing charities in their attempts to raise funds in the town.

"What powers does Middlesbrough Council believe it has to do this?" said Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the PFRA.

"CRB checks are only for those working with vulnerable people. Checks on street fundraisers are not legally necessary. It's time for the council to rethink its position."

But a spokesman for the council said that it would consider reviewing its policy only if representations were made to its licensing committee.

The council had not received any complaints about face-to-face fundraisers, he said.

"We believe the PFRA is wrong to assume CRB checks are there only to protect vulnerable people," he said. "We ask for checks as part of our policy to protect the integrity of trade. We believe they protect the wellbeing of people in the town."

Aldridge said the PFRA would make a representation to the council's licensing committee if that was what it took to allow street fundraisers to return to the streets of Middlesbrough. "Unfortunately, councils often won't change policies without consulting politicians," he said.

"If Middlesbrough needs to be seen to go through the political motions to get this changed, that's fine. We will make the representation and provide them with copies of our assurance from the CRB."

KEY POINTS

- Middlesbrough Council is insisting that face-to-face fundraisers undergo criminal record checks, even though the CRB says these are not necessary

- The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association argues that the council has misunderstood the purpose of the checks

- The council says it will review its policy only if representation is made to its licensing committee - No complaints have been made to the council about street fundraisers in the city.

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