Blunkett appoints troubleshooters at the CRB

12 Sep 02
The Home Office has parachuted a hit squad into the crisis-hit Criminal Records Bureau amid warnings that the delays in criminal checks could last into next year.

13 September 2002

Home Secretary David Blunkett announced that an independent team had gone into the agency to 'set it on the road to recovery'. Patrick Carter, John Holden and Ron Skelly are all described as business executives with 'extensive experience similar to that of the CRB'.

Carter has already assisted the government on 'difficult projects'. As a non-executive director of the Prisons Service, he recommended that new prisons should be built only under PPPs.

Holden is a non-executive director at the Passports and Records Agency, the body that oversees both passports and the CRB, while Skelly is a consultant at the Office of Government Commerce.

The team will report their initial findings on September 18.

The three consultants are expected to remain at the CRB for the foreseeable future and will have the weight of the Home Office behind them to implement any improvements in the service.

Capita, the Home Office's partner in the £400m PPP, put a brave face on the announcement. But sources indicated that executives were furious at attempts to scapegoat the company. 'Capita looks forward to working closely with this team,' its statement said, 'We regret the part we have played in the disruption that has occurred in processing applications.'

Local government employers gave a cautious welcome to the intervention.

Graham Lane, chair of the Local Government Association's education executive, said the CRB had yet to start sifting through checks for teaching assistants and other school staff.

The Employers' Organisation has already warned that delays could lead to closures in children's and elderly care homes. Outstanding criminal checks stand at 198,000.

Despite the Home Office's move, the political furore continued this week with the Conservatives pointing the finger of blame at the CRB's chief executive Bernard Herdan.

They claimed that Herdan was in charge during the Passport Agency's troubles in 1999 when a new computer system led to huge backlogs in passport applications.

'It would seem that Mr Herdan has an inverse Midas touch when it comes to running crucial government agencies,' said Gordon Keymer, leader of the Tories on the LGA.

The Home Office confirmed that Herdan oversees both the CRB and passports, but added that he was credited with helping to solve the Passport Agency's crisis.


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