OPPOSITION councillors have called for an independent review after a leaked council e-mail suggested a Labour councillor was being investigated for benefit fraud.

A memo from a Thurrock Council official suggests Clare Baldwin, councillor for Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park, has been investigated for circumstances surrounding housing benefit fraud relating to properties in Tilbury and Loughton.

The e-mail alleges Cllr Baldwin was interviewed in October, 2012, about living arrangements with a partner at the home in Loughton, and later at a property in Tilbury, where she was claiming housing benefit, without declaring she was co-habiting.

Thurrock Conservative group leader, Cllr Phil Anderson, plans to call for an inquiry after seeing the e-mail, saying he had “grave concerns” over the affair.

Details of an investigation first surfaced in November, but Thurrock Council has refused to comment further.

Ms Baldwin and council leader John Kent have also both refused to comment.

But after seeing the report, Mr Anderson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on these very serious allegations against Cllr Baldwin in advance of any court hearing.

“But I have grave concerns over why this has taken so long to be investigated and why Freedom of Information requests have not been properly responded to.

“I’m sure a normal member of the public would have expected to be either cleared or taken to court months ago.

“People rightly expect their elected representatives to be held to the highest standards of behaviour, and Thurrock residents will want to be reassured there has been no cover-up here.

“I will be asking for an independent review of the whole affair.”

A council spokesman said: “The only time Thurrock Council would make any comment on fraud investigations it was carrying out would be when court action was being taken and possibly not until the court had made a decision.

“Therefore it would be inappropriate to comment on allegations such as these and the council cannot confirm or deny the allegations.”