COUNCIL bosses in East Yorkshire have defended carrying out criminal background checks on burger van owners and ice-cream sellers.

Research by the Manifesto Club has revealed 490 councils in England and Wales spent more than £45 million on almost a million Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks in 2010/11 and claimed money was being wasted on unnecessary vetting procedures.

The group’s report highlighted measures taken by East Riding of Yorkshire Council – which staged 7,151 checks last year, including street traders such as ice-cream and fast food vans – as an example of “over-checking”. But the authority has said the fact such traders often operate near children meant their background had to be assessed.

North Yorkshire County Council had one of the highest levels of CRB checks last year, carrying out 17,344 – 1,712 more than in 2010/11 – while City of York Council performed 2,854 vetting procedures.

Paul Bellotti, the East Yorkshire authority’s head of housing and public protection, said: “Basic CRB checks cost £25 for street traders and were introduced following consultation with traders. Street traders, including ice-cream sales vans, operate from a variety of locations, often close to schools and colleges. The checks are a preventative measure, as not only do they safeguard children and vulnerable adults, but they also increase public confidence. Genuine street traders should be happy with the council’s approach to seek a CRB because it deters those people with a criminal history from applying for a street trader licence.”