Labour election candidate Mark Santos under fire over area committee criticism

An attack on the Redbridge Council’s area committee system by a Labour candidate sparked a heated reaction from members of the public at an election hustings meeting.

Mark Santos, who is standing in Hainault ward in the May 22 poll, was asked by a woman if he would abolish area committees, a voted-out idea proposed by Labour councillors in March.

He told the Barkingside 21 organised meeting: “We are all about involving the public, [but] area committees don’t achieve that.”

When he said he would “open up the council,” and cited an example about a different issue, the resident hit back, saying: “I am asking you about area committees.

“Local people do attend them and have a right to speak on issues that are very relevant to them.”

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The woman was clapped by some, but Cllr Wes Streeting (Chadwell, Labour) accused her of “heckling,” as did a resident, and of “creating a bad atmosphere”.

The other candidates at last night’s hustings, organised by Barkingside 21 and chaired by Recorder editor Chris Carter, were Mike Teahan, standing for the Liberal Democrats in Roding ward, and Nathan Pathmanathan, standing for the Conservatives in Clayhall ward.

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Mr Teahan joked: “I don’t think I am that bright [as] to make all the decisions myself. I think there need to be committees.”

Candidates were also asked what they planned to do about pollution and Mr Teahan suggested a 20mph speed limit across the borough. Mr Pathmanathan disagreed saying: “I think it would create more pollution. It is not going to solve the problem.”

On the Save King George Hospital campaign, Mr Santos said: “We have opportunities to get them [CCG] to stand up for our local hospital. We should be campaigning.”

Mr Pathmanathan added: “I joined MPs for a protest outside the hospital against the closure [of A&E]. I would be the first person to join people in protesting.”

Barkingside 21’s chairman, John Sharrock, said Ukip and the Green Party were approached to take part, but said they did not have anyone to put forward.

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