A taxi driver ruled unfit to carry passengers by one council was allowed to continue working in a neighbouring area despite having been accused of waiting in his cab outside a swimming pool wearing only his underpants.
Gurpal Atwal, 46, until recently a Labour councillor, can drive cabs in Leicester even though the city council is aware of concerns that led Oadby and Wigston borough council to deny him a licence last year.
Last week, Atwal was given a criminal conviction for threatening to kill another taxi driver. His Leicester licence is yet to be suspended or revoked.
The two councils’ contrasting interpretations of public protection, their primary licensing responsibility, will increase concerns that lax regulation of the taxi industry poses a growing risk to passenger safety. The Times revealed this week that councils have issued thousands of licences to people who do not live or work in their area, and in some cases have failed to monitor their criminal records.
Nusrat Ghani, the transport minister, told the Commons yesterday that the findings were “very alarming”. Her department said that it was aware of inconsistencies between councils and was considering new legislation.
Atwal has been a licensed taxi driver in Leicester for 18 years. In January last year, he was turned down by Oadby and Wigston council, which ruled that he was not a “fit and proper” person to hold a licence. When he appealed in July, a council licensing officer told Loughborough magistrates’ court that she had been informed that Atwal, who co-owned a Leicester minicab business, used unlicensed drivers on school runs and “sat in his pants outside a swimming pool”. He was also accused of racism.
Atwal denied all the allegations. It was claimed on his behalf in court that they stemmed from a dispute with a former business partner. The magistrates upheld the council’s decision.
Until he resigned last summer, Atwal was the only Labour member of Oadby and Wigston council. Members of the Labour-run Leicester city council’s licensing committee reviewed his licence three months ago, but decided that he did not “present a risk to the travelling public”. The Times has been shown correspondence in which the council’s head of regulatory services, Roman Leszczyszyn, said that “documentary material collected by Oadby and Wigston” was taken into account.
A spokesman for the council said it was aware of Atwal’s conviction, and would review his licence again in due course. Leicester magistrates’ court was told that the driver he threatened, the father of his former business partner, was taking three children home from school when Atwal threatened him. Atwal received a conditional discharge.