Labour has denied the suspension of a council leader was a “stitch up”.

Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, was one of the frontrunners to be named the Labour candidate for Ilford South, the seat of former Labour MP Mike Gapes.

However, following serious allegations against him, Cllr Athwal was suspended from the party on October 4, a day before the selection meeting.

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, described the decision a politically-motivated “stitch up”.

In a statement on Twitter he said: “Many of us have been calling for an independent complaints procedure for some time because of our fears that the process can be manipulated for political reasons.

“Suspending the leader of Redbridge Council on the eve of selection on the basis of a complaint that the Labour Party has sat on for month underlines our concerns.”

A Labour Party source said: “Anyone claiming this is a stitch up is dismissing extremely serious allegations against this individual.

“This decision was taken by a panel following a report from an independent investigator from a specialist organisation. The case was anonymised so the panel did not know who the individual was.

The source refuted the timing had anything to do with the selection process, saying the hearing had been undertaken at the “earliest opportunity”.

It is understood an independent investigator led the initial investigation and referred the case to the National Constitutional Committee – Labour’s disciplinary body.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously, which are investigated and any appropriate disciplinary action taken in line with the party’s rules and procedures.”

Redbridge Labour pledged its “full support” to Cllr Athwal and confirmed he will remain council leader, following calls from opposition councillors for him to stand down during the investigation.

A Redbridge Labour spokesperson said: “It is in the interests of everyone that the Labour Party investigates the complaint in a timely and appropriate manner so that we can draw this matter to a close as soon as possible.”

The East London Guardian has reached out to Mr Athwal and Redbridge Council for further comment.