A JUDGE labelled the case of a councillor charged with benefit fraud “shambolic” after it was delayed for five months because barristers had not been provided with the necessary paperwork.

Clare Baldwin, who has represented Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park ward since 2011, appeared at Basildon Crown Court this week expecting to be in the dock for the first day of a three-day trial.

But the 41-year-old mum-often, who denies dishonestly claiming more than £2,640 in housing and council tax benefit, sat in the public gallery throughout the day-long hearing as her barrister, John Caudle, and prosecutor, Nick Ham, attempted to make sense of the case they had been given.

It prompted the judge, Recorder Richard Christie QC, to describe the situation to Baldwin as “shambolic” after the situation forced the date of the trial back to October 22.

He told her: “The position is, as you’ve heard, a shambolic state of affairs.”

Speaking after the hearing, Baldwin said she agreed with the judge’s description.

She added: “It’s a complete shambles – this has been going on for a year-and-a-half now. It’s made me ill.”

An investigation into Baldwin’s benefit claims began in October 2012.

She was suspended by the East of England Labour Party last year pending the result of the trial.

Baldwin was granted bail and ordered to reappear at the court on October 9 for a pre-trial review.