Veteran Redbridge councillor prevented from standing as a Tory in next year’s elections

A Redbridge Conservative councillor of almost 30 years is “very disappointed” with the group’s leadership after being denied the chance to run next year.

Cllr Michael Stark (Monkhams) was first elected in 1993 and has served as the cabinet member for education and chairman of the planning committee during his 28 years on the council.

Cllr Michael Stark will not be allowed to stand as a Tory in next year’s elections

He was removed from the planning committee in 2018 shortly after voting for a controversial temporary accommodation scheme in South Woodford that Conservative councillors opposed.

He will serve one more year as councillor until the next local election, when Joel Herga, chairman of the Chingford and Woodford Green Conservatives, will run in his stead.

Cllr Stark said: “I did not get voted out, I was not allowed to stand. I am obviously very disappointed after having done 28 years’ service for the party.

“I felt I had a right to a hearing at a local ward meeting, to see if members of the ward wished to select me but I was not put on the members’ list. There was no real reason given to me.”

He added he was particularly upset by the “lack of support” from his ward colleague of 25 years and Conservative group leader Cllr Linda Huggett, adding that he does not “blame the party”.

Regarding his decision to vote for the Chigwell Road homeless housing scheme, which he believes led to his removal from the planning committee, he added: “The previous committee had approved a block of flats right next door so, in planning terms, there was not a reason to turn it down.”

He claims he was removed from the committee a matter of days after the meeting. The council’s records show he was absent with apologies from the next meeting and no longer listed on the committee for the meeting after that.

Cllr Huggett said she had “nothing at all to do” with the decision not to let Cllr Stark run for re-election and had “no idea” why it was made.

She said: “It’s a whole legal process that’s set down by (the party’s) central office. I was not involved in any part of that process.”

In a later written statement, she added: “I am disappointed that Cllr Stark has described me as not giving him any support as he has been my ward colleague for many years and we have had a good working relationship.”

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter