Redbridge Labour leader dismisses claims party is in chaos after three councillors resign

Cllr Jas Athwal has dismissed the hatrick of defections from his party

Cllr Jas Athwal has dismissed the hatrick of defections from his party - Credit: Archant

The leader of the Redbridge Labour group has dismissed the resignation of three of his councillors, saying: “With these people gone, we now have a united team”.

From left: Cllrs Filly Maravala, Balvinder Saund and Virendra Tewari

From left: Cllrs Filly Maravala, Balvinder Saund and Virendra Tewari - Credit: Archant

Cllr Jas Athwal, who was elected Labour leader in October 2011, has now seen four of his 25 councillors become independents is just a few days.

Redbridge Town Hall

Redbridge Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Following Cllr Andy Walker’s defection, today Cllrs Filly Maravala, Virendra Tewari and Balvinder Saund ripped up their Labour Party membership cards on the steps of Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford.

Cllr Filly Maravala

Cllr Filly Maravala - Credit: Archant

They have formed the Redbridge Independent Group, with Cllr Maravala its leader.

Cllr Balvinder Saund

Cllr Balvinder Saund - Credit: Archant

It follows weeks of criticisms of the Labour leadership in Redbridge, after some councillors were deselected and others told they would be standing in different wards in the 2014 elections, including Labour deputy leader Cllr Wes Streeting.

Cllr Virendra Tewari

Cllr Virendra Tewari - Credit: Archant

But in a statement today, Cllr Athwal rejected the anger some deselections had sparked.

He said: “It is human nature for former colleagues to be disappointed not to have won support from councillors and party members for elected positions.

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“However, on a weekend where Tory policies are causing real pain to local families, I am sad that they have put their personal ambition ahead of the concerns of the residents they purport to represent.

“It seems they are only prepared to respect democratic decision-making when it goes their way. Such attitudes have no place in the Labour group.”

He added: “With these people gone, we now have a united team and a stronger field of candidates who will work for residents towards a victory in 2014, focused on reversing 11 years of decline and broken promises under the Tories.”

Cllr Maravala told the Recorder he believed other Labour councillors could defect, with Cllr Saund saying the party in Redbridge is “in a bit of chaos”.

Cllr Maravala, of Loxford ward since May 1994, added: “The Redbridge Labour group has totally lost the plot and have not come up with alternatives to the yearly council budgets apart from making a few Mickey Mouse amendments.

“In my view it has done precious little since 2010 and before.”

He added: “There will be no backlash. I can assure you 110 per cent the only backlash there will be will be from the leadership.

“The 3,403 votes I got in the last election were for Filly Maravala the man. They [constituents] couldn’t give a damn about the party.

“I could have been running for the Monster Raving Loony Party.

“I’ve put an intense amount of work into Loxford.”

Cllr Tewari, also of Loxford ward, was elected to the council in May 1994, while Cllr Saund, of Seven Kings ward, was elected in May 2006.

It is understood the Redbridge Labour group’s leadership learned of the resignations this afternoon.

The Labour group now has 21 councillors in Redbridge.

The Conservatives have 29 councillors and the Liberal Democrats, who they are in coalition with, seven.

There are now six independent councillors, including Cllr Ali Hai, who resigned from the Labour group in March 2012.