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Council leader Michael White has come under fire from Elm Park residents after failing to turn up for his own Q&A session.

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Residents were bemused when Cllr White sent a replacement to the monthly “Meet the Leader” session at the Tesco in Elm Park Avenue last Friday (March 15) –community safety boss Cllr Geoff Starns.

Those who had arrived were told Cllr White had been called away to an “emergency meeting in London”.

Cllr White told the Recorder: “I’m sorry that, on this occasion, I wasn’t able to attend the event. But, rather than cancel, I ensured there was a cabinet member there in my place to answer residents’ questions and feed back their comments.”

The choice of venue was also criticised, with Tesco’s management apparently not having been adequately informed the meeting was taking place.

“It was a total farce,” said Elm Park resident Barry Mugglestone. “It appeared that the manager of Tesco had no idea the consultation was taking place, and shoppers in Tesco had to keep asking if they could pass while the discussions were taking place with Cllr Starns.

“When the question was asked why this location had been chosen, the response was: ‘Where else could it be done?’

“But we have a library, a church hall and the Royal British Legion.”

Streetlife user Stephanie Nunn added: “The venue was inappropriate and a resident on a mobility scooter was frustrated at not being included in the discussion, which I pointed out.

“I thank Cllr Starns for coming, but he didn’t really know our area.”

Cllr White said: “Our residents’ views are really important to us, which is why we try to use busy places like supermarkets for Meet the Leader events. Tesco already hosts them in their larger local stores, and had offered us the use of their Elm Park store.

“We will take on board people’s feedback about limited space at the recent event, and look at other locations in Elm Park.”

In February last year Cllr White was criticised for “pulling a sickie” after failing to attend an “Ask the Cabinet” session – only to arrive at the cabinet meeting minutes later.

The same meeting in August was cancelled without notice, even though 10 members of the public – including one who had come all the way from Hertfordshire – had already turned up.

That session has now been replaced by monthly “Community Questions” sessions, the next of which will take place tomorrow at Langtons in Hornchurch from 7pm.

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