Conservative councillor ‘forced to resign’ from cabinet amid leadership challenge rumours

Cllr Alex Wilson

Cllr Alex Wilson - Credit: Archant

Cllr Alex Wilson has allegedly been “forced to resign” from Redbridge Council’s cabinet in a surprise reshuffle ahead of next year’s local election.

Cllr Keith Prince

Cllr Keith Prince - Credit: Archant

The claims come amid rumours of a leadership challenge within the Conservative Group aiming to topple current leader Cllr Keith Prince.

In an email to fellow councillors, the former cabinet member for planning and public protection said Cllr Prince asked him to resign on Thursday.

He had been in the post for a year, which included the unexpected U-turn on the Core Strategy Review in the wake of public opposition to proposed development on Oakfield Playing Fields.

In his letter of resignation, Cllr Wilson wrote that Cllr Prince and Cllr Michelle Dunn “made it clear [his] position was no longer tenable”.

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It continued: “The logical conclusion of our discussion seems to be the exclusion from cabinet of anyone with anything like a responsible professional job based further than five minutes from the Town Hall.

“I wonder if that is a healthy position for either the council or the borough.

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“Since being elected in 2009 and subsequently being appointed to cabinet last year, I have only ever wanted to do the best job I can for the borough and for our party.

“If I did not meet your expectations, I regret it.”

Cllr Wilson reduced his working hours to four days a week after being appointed to the cabinet.

Cllr Prince would not confirm what role he had in the resignation.

He said: “At different times of the year, we look at people and what jobs they are doing.”

Cllr Thomas Chan also resigned from his post as cabinet member for regeneration, business and communities and Cllr Ashok Kumar stepped down as the member for leisure after less than nine months.

He will be replaced by Cllr Joyce Ryan and Cllr Ruth Clark will take Cllr Wilson’s post in planning.

Cllr Robin Turbefield, who himself suddenly resigned from cabinet in March, is back in as member for regeneration, business and communities.

There will be a leadership election within the Conservative party following the results of the local elections in May, where Cllr Prince could be voted out.

But the leadership challenge could also start before with a vote of no confidence.

The identity of the challenger has not been confirmed but Cllr Prince said he did not feel threatened.

He added: “That’s something that happens in every party all the time.”

Cllr Chan and five other Conservative councillors including deputy mayor Cllr Tania Solomon will not be standing at the next election.

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