The Mayor of Milton Keynes has resigned after it emerged he personally vouched for a convicted rapist who applied for a taxi driver’s licence.
The man, who had four convictions for serious sexual offences, was a licensed driver in the city for seven months, from September 2011 to April 2012.
Milton Keynes Council issued the license despite the convictions, following Mr Shafiq’s personal endorsement at a special hearing. Although the council later received more information about the offences, it was another three months before the man’s license was suspended.
Two other councillors - Stuart Burke and Gladstone McKenzie - have now left the Licensing & Regulation Committee.
And it has since emerged that seven other drivers with criminal convictions - one of whom had been convicted of a sexual offence - were also granted licenses.
The news was announced at a midday press conference by the chief executive of Milton Keynes Council.
Neither Mr Shafiq, nor fellow councillors Stuart Burke and Gladstone McKenzie - were present.
Council chief executive Carole Mills said: “What has happened in the past is simply not acceptable.
“That is why, on this coming to light, the council has taken rapid steps to ensure the safety of our citizens travelling by taxi or private hire vehicle.
“The process we have put in place will not allow this situation to happen again.”
The driver, who has not been named, first applied for a taxi licence in February 2010. However a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check revealed that he had four convictions for serious sexual assault, including rape.
14 months later, in April 2011, a council sub-committee met to consider the application. After Mr Shafiq gave him a “very strong character reference” and described himself as a friend, the driver was issued a taxi licence in September 2011.
The council subsequently received additional information about the offences in January 2012, and suspended his license three months later on April 24, 2012.
This week the authority began a review of all taxi drivers with declared convictions in Milton Keynes.
There are 1,300 taxi drivers in the city, with seven giving council bosses “cause for concern”; one of these has surrendered his license and plates, and the other six have been invited for interview.
The council has also reviewed its procedures for granting licenses to taxi and private hire vehicle drivers with immediate effect, and is liaising with Thames Valley Police.
Councillor Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “It’s the first duty of any council to keep citizens safe. It is highly regrettable that such significant errors have been made.
“It is clear that members of the regulatory sub-committee exercised very poor judgement in granting a licence to the driver in question, given the nature of the offences.
“I’m pleased to confirm that we have cross-party support in relation to the action we have taken and how this will work in future. We are committed to being honest and open.”