THE leader of Thurrock Council has given the clearest admission yet that a Labour councillor is being investigated for benefit fraud.

Cllr John Kent, leader of the borough’s ruling Labour Party, said there have been “indications” Clare Baldwin, a Labour councillor for the Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park ward, is been investigated for circumstances surrounding alleged benefit fraud relating to properties in Tilbury and Loughton since October 2012.

The admission comes more than five weeks after the Gazette revealed investigations are being carried out.

At the time Ms Baldwin, Cllr Kent and the council declined to comment on the allegations and have remained tight-lipped since, although no-one has moved to deny the allegations.

But last Wednesday, responding to questions by Conservative leader Phil Anderson, Cllr Kent said: “Every member has seen recent press articles which have indicated one member is being investigated for benefit fraud.

“I’m not in a position to comment on when those investigations will be complete. That isn’t for any elected member to comment on.”

Cllr Anderson said afterwards: “Yet again Cllr Kent seems to believe he can ignore questions regarding his members’ behaviour and get away with it.

"He now has two Labour councillors who have been under investigation for up to nine months each – Cllr Aaron Kiely for cynical abuse of public office and Cllr Baldwin for possible benefit fraud.

“One investigation has proved a complete sham and the other he will barely admit even exists.

“Since becoming Conservative leader I have, on several occasions, found myself in the position of dealing with serious allegations against councillors. In each case the matter was investigated quickly.

“By contrast it seems Cllr Kent is hoping if he drags things out for long enough people will forget.

“I can assure him that isn’t going to happen.”