A LABOUR councillor has been suspended from the party as she prepares to face trial accused of committing benefit fraud.

Clare Baldwin, 40, appeared before Basildon Magistrates’ Court on Friday, August 16, charged with two counts of benefit fraud, following investigations which lasted more than a year.

Ms Baldwin, a ward councillor for Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park, pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to declare that she lived with her partner, Terrence Morton, at an address in Byron Gardens, Tilbury, when claiming for housing and council tax benefit from Thurrock Council on March 19, 2012.

She also pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to notify the council between March 2012 and February 2013 that her circumstances had changed and she was living with Mr Morton.

Ms Baldwin has now chosen trial by jury at Basildon Crown Court, with an exact date to be confirmed.

A Labour party spokesman said: “Clare Baldwin is suspended as a Labour councillor pending the outcome of the court case.”

Thurrock Council can only suspend her from the authority if she is found guilty of the charges and jailed for more than three months. She can still continue as a councillor.

Before the announcement Ms Baldwin had been suspended, the Tories had called for action immediate action to be taken.

Thurrock Conservative group leader, Phil Anderson, said: “I am pleased that after a year of delays, these allegations will now be dealt with properly in a court of law.

“Given that the authorities clearly believe there is enough evidence to go to trial, I call on Labour leader Cllr John Kent to suspend Cllr Baldwin immediately, until the court has decided her guilt or innocence one way or the other.”