Political row breaks out following resignation of Wembley councillor

Date of by-election slammed by the borough’s Liberal Democrats

A political row has broken out after the Lib Dems accused their opponents of playing tactics by calling a by-election three days before Christmas.

Following the resignation of Jayesh Mistry, Labour councillor for the Wembley Central ward, it has been revealed his replacement will be sought on December 22.

However, Cllr Paul Lorber, Brent Lib Dem leader, has accused the council of choosing an inconvenient date for voters.

The seat will be hotly contested as the Labour party snatched it back from the Lib Dems in the council election last year.

Cllr Lorber said: “It’s a chance for local people to have their say on Labour’s cuts to the street cleaning and waste collection service, the hike in parking permit charges and library closures.”

“Just a handful of votes separated the Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates at the last election in Wembley Central. It looks set to be a tight contest between the Liberal Democrats and Labour again.

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“They are obviously embarrassed about it and want as few people as possible to notice and take part.”

Dismissing Cllr Lorber’s claims as ‘nonsense’, Cllr Ann John OBE, council leader and leader of the Brent Labour Party, said: “It is the returning officer who sets the date for by elections, in accordance with electoral law. The same process is followed for all by-elections.

“I’m not surprised the Lib Dems are already making excuses. They’ve been losing elections all over London, and are at seven per cent in the polls.

“Clearly the election falls at a very busy time of year for everyone, but with the coalition cuts starting to bite it is more important than ever that Wembley residents exercise their democratic right to vote.”

The shock resignation of Mr Mistry, a married bus driver, for personal reasons, has resulted in the second by-election in the ward since 2009.

Vijay Shah, the then Lib Dem councillor for the ward was booted out of his party after he was charged with fraud and continued as an independent.

He lost his seat after he pleaded guilty and was jailed for a year.