Up to £30,000 of taxpayers’ money will be spent on the by-election forced by this week’s resignation of disgraced Greenwich councillor Tonia Ashikodi.
The council confirmed shortly after Ashikodi’s resignation on Wednesday that a by-election to fill the vacancy in Glyndon ward would be held on Thursday 9 April.
It means the council will have to stump up between £25,000 to £30,000 from its reserves to facilitate the vote, which will see a third member elected to represent the ward alongside Labour councillors Peter Brooks and Adel Khaireh.
Ashikodi resigned hours after she was given a two-year suspended sentence and 250 hours of unpaid community work following her conviction for property fraud. She was found guilty of applying for and living in council housing while she owned three other properties.
Inner London Crown Court earlier heard that her actions cost the council £67,417.46 – the price of keeping another resident in emergency accommodation when they would otherwise be residing in the council home occupied by her. She would have also paid significantly lower rent than the market rate during her time in council housing between 2012 and June 2018 – with the court hearing the difference was roughly £90,500.
She was suspended by the council’s Labour group shortly after being charged in 2018.
While it would be cheaper to hold the by-election on the same day as the mayoral and London Assembly elections on May 7, the law stipulates that if a councillor position is vacant, a poll has to be held within 35 days of the council receiving two letters from electors in the borough requesting a by-election.
“We have received twice the required number of letters requesting a by-election and therefore have a limited time in which to call the election, meaning the timings do not work for us to combine with the Mayor of London election in May,” a spokesperson for Greenwich Council said.
Greenwich Conservative leader Matt Hartley had earlier slammed the additional cost of the by-election not coinciding with the mayoral poll.
“It is frankly astonishing that it has taken this long for Tonia Ashikodi to resign as a councillor, but I am relieved she has finally done so. It is frustrating and unfortunate that it is not legally possible to hold the by-election on the same day as the Mayoral/ London Assembly election in May. This is one more additional cost to add to the £67,000 and countless officer time that this sorry saga has already cost the Greenwich taxpayer,” he said.
Ashikodi herself was elected in a by-election in May 2016 after Labour councillor Radha Rabadia resigned. She won 2,583 votes – outpolling her nearest competitor, the Conservative Party’s Matt Browne, by more than 2,000. Browne later joined the Greens. In 2018’s election Ashikodi topped the poll with 2,386, with her nearest competitor, Stewart Christie of the Plumstead Party, polling 574 votes.
Candidates who wish to stand this time must submit completed nomination forms by Friday 13 March.
Glyndon ward covers the western part of Plumstead, north of the common, and part of west Thamesmead.
Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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