Two councillors have been kicked out of the Labour Party after facing claims they live hundreds of miles away from Brighton.
Councillors Bharti Gajjar and Chandni Mistry were suspended from the local party and committees on Brighton and Hove City Council after an investigation was launched into them both.
The pair have now officially been kicked out, with Labour calling for them both to stand down and trigger a by-election for their Kemptown and Queen’s Park.
However, Chandni Mistry told The Argus today that she lives in the Brighton Pavilion constituency. We have contacted the council and the Labour Party for clarification.
Councillor Amanda Grimshaw, chief whip to the Labour group, said: “We now call on Councillors Gajjar and Mistry to do the right thing and stand down from the council, so that the people of Kemptown and Queen’s Park can elect new councillors to represent them.”
To be a councillor, you need to be registered to vote in the area or have lived, worked or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election.
According to a filing on Companies House, Cllr Bharti Gajjar has a correspondence address in Leicester, not Brighton and Hove.
Councillor Bella Sankey, leader of the council and the local Labour group, said: “Claims concerning these councillors’ places of residence have been investigated and each has had their membership of the Labour Party cancelled.
“We have therefore taken immediate steps to have them removed from the Labour group of councillors at Brighton and Hove City Council.”
A Labour Party spokesman said that the party “takes all complaints seriously” and is “fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate action is taken”.
“In this case, the party has decided to cancel the membership of Bharti Gajjar and Chandni Mistry,” the spokesman said.
Following their suspension, Labour now has 35 councillors, with seven Green councillors, six Conservative councillors, three independents and two Brighton and Hove Independents councillors.
One seat on the council is vacant following the resignation of South Portslade councillor Les Hamilton.
The decision comes after Cllr Mistry was shortlisted for the Young Councillor of the Year awards at the annual nationwide Cllr Awards.
Councillor denies living outside of city
Councillor Mistry has now denied living outside of Brighton and said that she had her party whip withdrawn "a few working hours prior to the deadline to apply" for the nomination to be Labour's parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion, where she says she resides.
She said: "I have responded to any allegations in a timely manner and in full.
"I am immensely grateful to the countless cross-party and local community members of Queen's Park and beyond, who have personally provided their support during this period.
"As a fellow of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce I was delighted to see its mission of finding practical solutions to social challenges within the heart of Queen's Park.
"This was evident in my meetings with local schools and the Brighton and Hove City Council's safe streets scheme to enforce one-way systems in congested streets outside schools to ensure the utmost safety for school children during peak times.
"This, coupled with the installation of new fences near the children's pickup areas enhances security and encourages a safe environment for students.
"I firsthand experienced the overall peace of mind for students, staff and parents these new interventions provided when I had partaken in the temporary road closure at Freshfield Place."
'Residents have been lied to'
Councillor Steve Davis, leader of the Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council, said: "It is now plain for all to see that the Labour Party will seek power at any cost.
"Residents have been lied to – with the Labour Party putting forward candidates who had no intention to support the city they claimed to represent. This is unacceptable we call on these two councillors to stand down immediately.
"The fact that these lies went unnoticed during Labour’s candidate selection process – and that it has taken over half a year to take action - casts a shadow over the entire sitting Labour group, who must now clarify their commitment to the residents who they asked to put trust in them at the last local election.
"The leader of the council must also disclose when she was made aware of these lies.
"Under a Labour council, the city faces the prospect of not one but three by-elections, all at a cost.
"Labour must be clear about the financial impact of these by-elections and Greens demand that all allowances and expenses claimed during the period of Councillors Gajjar and Mistry’s term are handed back with immediate effect."
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: "Legislation and Electoral Commission guidance regarding the election process is clear that the Returning Officer must not undertake any investigation or research into a candidate.
"Nomination forms should be taken at face value and any information provided on Home Address or Consent to Nomination forms should not be checked for accuracy – other than to check that the address can be commonly understood.
"Any allegations of election malpractice should be made to the police and/or the courts."