Tower Hamlets by-election confirmed

Shelina Akhtar Pic: Tower Hamlets Council

A Tower Hamlets by-election will be held in April, despite warnings that it will waste money and attract a smaller turnout than if it were held alongside the London mayoral election a month later.

The council has announced that the by-election to fill the councillor vacancy in the Spitalfields and Baglatown ward will take place on April 19. The London mayoral elections will be held on May 3.

The by-election date was called after Shelina Akhtar, the previous councillor for Spitalfields and Baglatown, was automatically disqualified by the council for failing to appeal her current prison sentence.

Akhtar, an independent, received a 16-week jail sentence in February after pleading guilty to benefit fraud.

Joshua Peck, Labour opposition leader and councillor for Bow West, has criticised the decision and wants an extension to allow the by-election to happen in May.

Peck told EastLondonLines: “The council is limited by electoral law as to when the election needs to be held. But it has a duty to do all it can to make it easy for people to exercise their democratic right to vote and to reduce the cost to local residents.

“It has failed to do that and by holding this by-election just two weeks before the London-wide mayoral election it will waste up to £15,000, close three schools unnecessarily twice in a month and depress turnout. It begs serious questions about how and why this decision was made.”

The Labour opposition has also requested permission to appeal against current legislation that sets out the time frame for by-elections.

The council said: “There is a statutory timetable which states that from the request by two electors the by-election must be held on a Thursday within a maximum of 35 days – excluding weekends and public holidays.”

As reported by EastLondonLines earlier in the week, Labour has put forward Ala Uddin as their candidate for the seat.

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