Former Havering Council leader Damian White has defended his failure to attend three out of the four full council meetings since May.

Prior to the installation of the current Havering Residents’ Association (HRA)/Labour administration after the last local elections, Cllr White was leader of both the council and the local Conservative group.

He remains leader of the latter, having earlier this year retained the position in a narrow victory.

Defending his absences from full council, Cllr White said the first missed meeting was due to a holiday in June.

He had not anticipated the clash because it is “unprecedented” to hold a full council meeting on June 13 because it was a Monday, he claimed.

The Conservative leader added he was unable to attend a meeting on July 13 because he was “quite ill” for three weeks.

He said he missed the September 7 full council meeting as he was working in his new role as a trainee social worker focusing on mental health.

Cllr Morgon alleged the Conservative group is now divided following the closely contested leadership vote held after the local elections.

Cllr White would not confirm or deny whether there will be another Conservative leadership challenge in the near future, but said the group is a “democratic organisation”.

He added: “Everyone is entitled to air their opinions and everyone serves at the pleasure of the group.

“We’re in opposition now so it’s different. Our role is to provide the critical friend and make sure everything comes out in the council.”

Murmurs of a potential Conservative leadership election have gained traction due to the recent defection of all three Tory Rainham and Wennington councillors to the HRA.

Councillors Sue Ospreay, Jacqueline McArdle and Sarah Edwards announced the shock move last week, with Cllr Ospreay and Cllr McArdle telling the Recorder the decision was due to a perceived lack of support from their Conservative peers.

After the defections, the HRA has 22 councillors to the Conservative’s 20.