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EDITIONS
Friday, 6 September, 2002, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Troubleshooters sent to vetting agency
classroom
Schools are still not fully back to normal
The Home Office is sending a team of experts into the troubled Criminal Records Bureau, following the fiasco over vetting education staff.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said they were there to "put it on the road to recovery" - not to conduct an "inquest" into what has been going wrong.

He said he was pleased that the recent difficulties with schools were now being resolved, but remained concerned by the ongoing problems that had beset the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

"I am determined that we will overcome these difficulties to ensure that this vital new public service to protect the public operates effectively," he said.

'Fundamental look'

The team comprises businessman Patrick Carter, who has worked for the government on other private sector projects; former Companies House chief executive John Holden; and Ron Skelly, a Whitehall computer expert.


I am interested in finding solutions, not scapegoats

Home Secretary, David Blunkett
They have been asked "to take a fundamental look at the strategy and operations of the business" of the CRB.

They are to report back to the Home Secretary and Home Office Minister, Lord Falconer, with their initial views in 10 days' time.

Mr Blunkett said: "These three highly respected figures will bring an expert eye to the running of the CRB.

"They will not be conducting an inquest into the events of the last few weeks, but focusing on what needs to be done to ensure the medium and long term success of the service."

Complaint

He said: "I am interested in finding solutions, not scapegoats. We cannot be in a situation where we are provided with reassurance, but not results."

This was a key complaint of the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, as "an angry customer" of the CRB, when on Wednesday she announced a U-turn on her policy on the vetting of new school staff.

This had been forced on her by schools' having to send children home because they did not have enough staff who had been thoroughly vetted through the CRB.

She said that even as late as the previous evening she had been led to believe that all would be well for the start of the new school term.

Inquiry demanded

Mr Blunkett added: "We have already strengthened the operational management of the bureau, including the appointment in July of John O'Brien as the CRB's new director responsible for the Liverpool operation.

"We are also in the process of substantially strengthening the bureau's operational capability with a number of additional experienced managers.

"Across government we are determined to take whatever decisive action is necessary for the future."

Louise Ellman MP
Louise Ellman: Concerns
Earlier, there were calls for an inquiry into recent events.

Labour MP Louise Ellman, in whose constituency in Liverpool the bureau is based, wrote to Lord Falconer demanding an investigation.

Eyebrows were raised when it emerged that stock market analysts had expected that the private firm running the CRB - Capita - would make extra money from the increased workload involved in trying to process many paper-based applications for checks.

Ms Ellman said she had asked Lord Falconer whether Capita would be penalised for what had happened.

'Ongoing negotiations'

In a statement, Capita said it was paid for each organisation that registered to receive clearances - known as "disclosures" - and for each disclosure, with some money to cover fixed costs.

"The actual total revenue will depend on actual volumes of disclosures issued over the 10-year contract duration," it said.

It would not profit from the delays.

But it confirmed: "Capita is in ongoing financial negotiations regarding the cost of building the application channel to accommodate the additional paper-based applications, which is outside the remit of the original contract."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We have not allocated any extra money to the CRB or to Capita in the light of events of the last few weeks."


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