Redbridge’s Conservative leader has stepped down shortly after her party lost more than half its councillors in last week’s local elections.
The election results announced last week saw the borough’s small Conservative opposition drop from 11 to 5 seats.
Labour now have a historically large majority in the borough after increasing their share of councillors for the third election in a row.
Conservative leader Linda Huggett told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she has now handed in her resignation and a new leader will be selected by the remaining councillors at a meeting tonight (May 10).
The former Conservative leader said she felt “devastated” by the results after her team had worked “so very hard” campaigning.
She added: “I stepped down on Friday. I was quite exhausted by the campaign, I was distraught, upset and felt we needed to re-group under someone else.
“I thought about it very carefully, I felt it was time. It was a terrible result, I was very upset and decided I needed a break. It’s the best thing to do for me and the party.”
At a meeting tonight, the next Conservative group leader will be selected from the remaining five councillors: Linda Huggett, Paul Canal, Ruth Clark, Joyce Ryan and newly-elected Joel Herga.
Particularly hard blows were the loss of long-running South Woodford councillor Suzanne Nolan and deputy leader Howard Berlin, who lost to Labour’s Bob Chattaway by only eight votes.
Another loss was Stephen Adams, who Cllr Huggett said “worked his socks off” during the election campaign but lost his Churchfields seat by about 100 votes.
Cllr Huggett praised her election campaign team and candidates, who competed against Labour’s “well-oiled machine”.
She said: “They were the best set of candidates I’d come across. They all worked their socks off, but it wasn’t to be.
“We sort of came quite close to winning a seat in Barkingside and were very close to winning Bridge but, to be honest, the Labour party locally have a well-oiled machine, they have a borough campaign manager and the troops.
“We ran [our election campaign] with little outside help and it wasn’t meant to be unfortunately.”
She added Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ scandal had “wiped out” local recognition of his successes, such as early military support for Ukraine and the vaccination programme.
Cllr Huggett said the Redbridge Conservatives will continue to focus on important local issues such as protecting the greenbelt, fighting over-development and the right for residents to speak at council meetings.
She added: “More people power, bringing back proper open forums, bringing back the right for people to speak at council meetings and being involved in planning with more consultation, more listening – which hasn’t happened.”
To residents, she said: “Don’t give up, we won’t give up on you.
“As your representatives, regardless of what party you are in, we do have a duty to represent all residents – regardless of whether they voted or not.
“That’s what community is all about.”