Derby City Council ‘granted taxi licences to criminals’, report concludes

CRIMINALS were being granted taxi licences by Derby City Council until as recently as last year, a damning report has found.

Between 2012 and 2015, expert auditors found that councillors on the authority’s Taxi Licensing Sub Committee had allowed licences to people with criminal records who had committed offences including “hate crime, harassment, intimidation and making improper comments to young women”.

In one instance, a taxi driver was granted a licence despite “publishing material threatening or intending to stir up religious/sexual hatred”.

In recent times, the auditors found that the authority had taken steps to “strengthen governance in this area”, including ensuring officers were involved in the decision-making process.

But the experts from Grant Thornton said there was evidence councillors “continue to involve themselves inappropriately in operational matters” around taxis.

The city council granted licences to criminals, the report says

The report also blasts the council for its handling of a recent Government-ordered pay review.

The Derby Telegraph had already reported how the work had cost more than £5 million to date after being beset with problems.

The review had been carried out by a company called Aquarius.

But, back in September 2014, the council’s former chief executive, Adam Wilkinson, revealed that “the previous consultants (Aquarius)” were not able to complete their work due to a “contractual issue”.

Councillor Lisa Eldret, responsible for staff matters at the city council, later revealed Aquarius was using the pay review system of a company called Hay without permission. The Aquarius work is now being redone by Hay at an additional cost of £1.2 million to the taxpayer.

Now, the auditors have said that the council had “asked” Aquarius to use the “Hay-based approach” that led to the problem.

Their report says: “It should have been clear as early as September 2013 that asking a firm other than Hay to apply a Hay-based approach would be problematic.”

The report adds that an allegedly politically-motivated decision by councillors around staff pay arrangements, made in 2013, had “meant extra costs of £3 million”.

It says that “according to officers, it was motivated by a political desire to protect refuse workers” in a bid to prevent them striking before an election, though some councillors denied this.

The council said many of the matters reported occurred some time ago and that it had already made a large number of improvements.

Council leader Ranjit Banwait, said: “I am confident many of the issues reported by our external auditors today are in the past; those issues that are more recent in nature are being reviewed and addressed – robust measures are already in place following an extensive overhaul of our governance.”

Read more at http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/