A disgruntled Limehouse community group has called on a local councillor to stand down after claiming he has become “invisible to residents”.
The Limehouse Community Forum (LCF) unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in councillor Craig Aston at a meeting in December 2016 attended by about 30 people.
The group formally called for his resignation at its subsequent meeting in March.
It argues Limehouse is no longer properly represented by cllr Aston.
He is entitled to a basic annual allowance of £10,938 for his role as councillor for the ward.
While other Conservative members on the council have hinted at “personal problems” being the cause of their colleague’s lack of response, no formal explanation has been given for his low attendance at meetings or his apparent failure to reply to residents.
The Wharf has repeatedly tried to contact cllr Aston to discuss residents’ concerns by phone and email but he has so far failed to respond.
It is understood fellow Tory councillors Peter Golds and Andrew Wood have taken on the majority of cllr Aston’s council work on an informal basis.
The chair of the LCF, Mark Slankard, said: “After the election in 2015, the forum was made aware of some illness or stress-related issues that Craig was suffering.
“That’s fine. We’re all human and we all have problems from time to time.
“Andrew Wood has done a fantastic job, but he’s not the person the electorate of Limehouse voted for.
“Every minute he spends working for Limehouse is time away from his own residents. It’s unfair to everyone involved.
“It’s a simple fact that barely a week goes past when someone doesn’t email or call me to ask who our councillor is and say they have tried to contact Craig but he just isn’t getting back to them.
“Who are people supposed to call if there’s a problem with littering, or anti-social behaviour, or their bin collections? He’s invisible.”
Cllr Aston has represented Limehouse since 2010, when there were three councillors for the ward.
Changes made by the Boundary Commission in 2015 reduced that to one.
Cllr Aston won that election with 38% of the vote.
Although cllr Aston attended 60% of meetings between May 3, 2015, and October 26, 2015, his attendance figures at the council have dramatically slumped since then.
Since April 19 last year, cllr Aston has gone to 37% of the meetings he was due to appear at.
In the six months since October 12, he has appeared at two out of nine possible meetings.
A council spokeswoman said a councillor must attend at least one relevant meeting every six months to remain qualified to hold office.
Poplar And Limehouse Conservatives chairman Mark Fletcher said: “Over recent months, cllr Aston has been suffering from personal problems.
“This has unfortunately resulted in him being unable to fulfil all of his council duties.
“Poplar And Limehouse Conservatives are supporting Craig during this difficult time and have allocated two of their most experienced councillors to ensure Limehouse residents remain fully represented.
“At the moment, I encourage any Limehouse resident who has any issue to contact cllr Golds or cllr Wood, until such a time as cllr Aston can resume his duties.
“Our group of five councillors are a close-knit team and regularly work together on policy and casework issues across the borough.
“I have absolute confidence in the team to continue delivering for all those residents who require support.”
Cllr Golds, who represents Island Gardens , said attendance at council meetings was a problem for councillors across the board, and accused Mark of having a political agenda and an axe to grind.
Cllr Golds said: “Mark Slankard is active in the Labour Party. This is Labour Party supporter and he is serving a Labour Party agenda in this attack on Craig.
“Craig has had problems. I’m not discussing those problems with anyone. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business.
“I expect it will change quite soon. There are certain issues with Craig, which have now been resolved and we look forward to him returning and resuming his duties.”
However, Mark denied the vote of no confidence in cllr Aston was due to any political sympathies.
He said: “It is absolutely not politically motivated.
“If there was another election and, provided Craig Aston didn’t stand, I’m sure a Conservative candidate would have as much chance as anyone else.
“We are getting absolutely no representation from our elected councillor. If a ward councillor does not do their job, for whatever reason, it behoves them to stand down.”
Councillors with the lowest attendance of the last 12 months
1. Councillor Craig Aston (Conservative, Limehouse)
Attended 37% of meetings, 7 out of 19
2. Councillor Harun Miah (Independent Group, Shadwell)
Attended 37.5% of meetings, 6 out of 16
3. Councillor Oliur Rahman (Independent Group, Stepney Green)
Attended 38% of meetings, 8 out of 21
4. Councillor Ohid Ahmed (Independent Group Lansbury)
Attended 41% of meetings, 11 out of 27
5. Councillor Joshua Peck Labour, Bow West
Attended 46% of meetings, 13 out of 28
Councillors with the highest attendance of the last 12 months
1. Councillor Rajib Ahmed (Labour, Lansbury)
Attended 100% of meetings, 29 out of 29
1. Councillor Mohammed Mufti Miah (Independent, Bromley North)
Attended 100% of meetings, 6 out of 6
3. Councillor Marc Francis (Labour, Bow East)
Attended 97% of meetings, 30 out of 31
3. Councillor Danny Hassell (Labour, Bromley South)
Attended 97% of meetings, 35 out of 36
5.Mayor John Biggs (Labour)
Attended 95% of meetings, 40 out of 42
Data covers the period from April 27, 2016 until April 6, 2017. Source Tower Hamlets Council
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