A LEADING Labour councillor has been suspended from his role as chief whip over allegations he tried to influence the outcome of a planning vote.

An investigation has been launched into a complaint made against Cllr Afzal Akram by his party colleague Cllr Pete Barnett, who is chairman of the authority's planning committee.

A statement from the Labour group said Cllr Akram was being investigated over "alleged undue influence in the planning process" but further details have not yet been released.

It is thought the investigation relates to a specific planning application.

The council's Standards Board is expected to deliver a verdict by Christmas.

Cllr Akram told the Guardian: "I can confirm a complaint has been made against me and as part of the process I have stepped down from my position [as chief whip].

"It would be inappropriate for me to comment further during the investigation but I look forward to resuming that position once the investigation is over."

A statement from the Labour Party said: "Following a formal complaint from Labour Councillor Pete Barnett, Chair of Planning Committee, against Cllr Afzal Akram regarding alleged undue influence in the planning process, the council has launched an official investigation.

"In view of this Cllr Chris Robbins, leader of the Labour Group, met with Cllr Akram and the decision was taken that Cllr Akram would stand down from his duties as Chief Whip pending the outcome of the investigation with immediate effect."

It comes just months after Cllr Akram lost his job as cabinet member for economic development and resources back in May.

That announcement came weeks after minutes of meetings released under the Freedom of Information Act showed Cllr Akram had accused failed charity O-Regen of providing false figures while contracted by the council to help the long-term unemployed.

However he then offered to help the charity with future contracts.

Cllr Akram is not a member of the council's planning committee and has rarely commented publicly about any planning applications.

One notable exception was in May 2011 when he spoke out in favour of a bid by the Chingford Islamic Society to double the capacity of its mosque in Chingford Mount.

The planning application was due to be rejected by council officers under delegated powers, but Cllr Akram intervened and asked for the application to be heard by a panel of councillors instead.

He said the application was too significant to be left to officers.

But the application was rejected by the planning committee due to concerns over possible disruption to residents living nearby.

The society launched a second failed bid to expand last month, which was similarly rejected.

That application was also due to be decided by council officers under delegated powers but this time Liberal Democrat Cllr Farooq Qureshi intervened and asked for the application to be heard by a panel of councillors.

A Labour Party spokesman said Cllr Akram was only suspended in his role as chief whip and had not been suspended as a councillor or party member.