Controversial Glasgow Labour councillor suspended over misuse of disabled parking badge

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  By a Newsnet reporter    

Controversial Glasgow Labour councillor Sohan Singh has been suspended from the party for 8 weeks as a punishment for misusing a relative’s disabled parking badge in order to park his Mercedes while attending a meeting of the Strathclyde Fire Board at the HQ of South Lanarkshire Council in Hamilton.

The Springburn councillor admitted to party colleagues that his car displayed a blue parking badge belonging to his niece.  Fraudulent use of a blue badge is an offence carrying a penalty of up to £1000.

Mr Singh’s selection as a Labour candidate prior to May’s local elections came as a surprise to many.  The period before the election was marked by bitter infighting between different factions on the council, and attempts by the party hierarchy to remove so-called “dead-wood”.

Mr Singh, reportedly a personal friend of Labour’s defence spokesman Jim Murphy MP and deputy Scottish leader Anas Sarwar MP, was selected as the Labour candidate for Springburn despite his often controversial past, and known associations with individuals convicted of criminal activities.  In 1999 Mr Singh was jailed along with drug dealer Craig McAteer and another man for a £1.6 million duty free tax fraud, but Mr Singh’s conviction was overturned on appeal.

The councillor attracted censure earlier this month after it came to light that he had illegally rented out some of the 28 properties in a block of flats in the north of Glasgow.  10 years ago, Mr Singh purchased the run-down property from the city council for the nominal sum of £1.  The incident saw the Springburn councillor being stripped of his title of Baillie, which allowed him to stand in for the Lord Provost.

Scots law demands that landlords register as a a requirement of the Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004.  Failure to register carries a maximum penalty of a fine of £50,000.  Mr Singh was not prosecuted.

The Herald newspaper reported that the councillor has also fallen foul of licensing laws at one of his hotels and had been warned that staff at one of his hotels were hampering police in their enquiries.  Mr Singh was issued with a written warning by his own council after Strathclyde Police called on the city’s licensing committee to take action against the Lorne Hotel in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove.

The Lorne Hotel was the venue chosen by Stephen Purcell, the disgraced former Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, to host a party to celebrate the Crown Office’s decision not to prosecute him over his alleged corruption and drug use.  It was also the venue chosen by the friends and family of notorious gangster Kevin “Gerbil” Carroll for Mr Carroll’s wake after his murder in 2010.   

In 2011, the city council pulled out of an event organised by Mr Singh to promote business links with India after discovering Mr Purcell was involved.  Mr Purcell had been promoting the event as part of his consultancy business.

In September this year, Mr Singh was sued by accountant Kalid Javid over an alleged debt of £100,000 which Mr Javid made to Mr Singh for the purchase of a hotel in Glasgow’s West End.  Speaking to the Daily Record, a source close to Mr Javid claimed that despite a number of excuses being given, Mr Singh had not repaid the debt.

Mr Singh now faces a court sequestration action in December over the loan.  Failure to repay the money could result in him being declared bankrupt – which would make him ineligible to sit as a councillor.

After meeting with party officials on Tuesday evening, Mr Singh was suspended from the Labour Group for eight weeks and removed from the board of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue with immediate effect.

A Labour Group spokesman said: “In line with the group’s standing orders, Councillor Singh was found to have committed a serious breach of rule by failing to uphold the highest standards of integrity and probity expected.”

Mr Singh said: “I fully accept that my behaviour has fallen short of the standards expected of elected officials.  This is a source of deep regret.  I accept responsibility and apologise unreservedly.”

However the opposition SNP group on the council have accused the ruling Labour group of “non-existent discipline even for serial offenders.”

Councillor Graeme Hendry leader of the SNP group said:

“Labour’s discipline is virtually non-existent even for serial offenders like Sohan Singh. The idea that a councillor can swan around the city doing exactly as they please is nothing short of disgusting.

“Fraudulent use of disabled parking bays is not a victimless offence – it is a serious problem with serious consequences for legitimate blue badge users.

“That’s exactly why the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to this effect a couple of years back – introduced by a Labour MSP in fact – and Mr Singh should be ashamed of himself and must spend his whole eight weeks off issuing apologies.

“The eight week suspension is far too weak and represents a glaring lack of judgement – he should have been expelled.”