Voters in Queen’s Park have been left frustrated after receiving either automated or standardised replies from their councillor.
Councillor Chandni Mistry, who was expelled from the Labour Party over election irregularities, has claimed that there were “technical issues” with her emails, preventing her from responding to inquiries.
When the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) contacted Councillor Mistry in January, the response email said: “Due to recent technical difficulties, your email may have bounced and be undelivered.
“I am working to sort this matter, please contact me via other methods as stated on the councillor website. I apologise for the inconvenience.”
Kemptown residents faced similar issues when they tried to contact her mother, Councillor Bharti Gajjar, who was also expelled from Labour in December.
Councillor Gajjar’s response said: “This email address may be experiencing technical dificulties (sic) resulting in your email being bounced back or undelivered. Please use alternative contact methods as publised (sic).”
Brighton and Hove City Council said that there were no “current difficulties” with either email account.
St Luke’s Residents’ Association received automated responses after repeatedly inviting Councillor Mistry to a meeting last month.
Residents wanted her views on the proposed admission changes at St Luke’s and Queen’s Park primary schools and her support as they drew up their response.
When Councillor Mistry eventually responded, she asked for any questions to be submitted in writing, saying that she would send a written response.
In his response to Councillor Mistry, residents’ association chair Simon Charleton said: “Residents really wanted to meet you in person rather than remotely by email and I remain keen to progress that personal meeting.
“Our other councillor (Tristram Burden) holds regular surgeries in the church hall so we get a chance to quiz him and hold him to account in person and we would much prefer to meet you in person.”
Mr Charleton told the LDRS: “Despite numerous emails we have never had an actual response to any of our multiple queries and requests for her help.”
Former council leader Nancy Platts, who stepped down as a councillor in May, contacted Councillor Mistry to ask how she intended to represent the ward after she left just 50 minutes into the meeting of the full council on Thursday 1 February.
Councillor Mistry walked out as Councillor Burden was responding to a deputation about safeguarding vulnerable people after a tenant died in temporary housing.
Councillor Gajjar left five minutes earlier.
Ms Platts, a Queen’s Park resident, received an automated response to her email which said: “Due to a higher than expected volume of inquiries, responses may be delayed. Please refer to the council website for alternative contact methods.”
After contacting Councillor Mistry about her early departure through the Ask Your Councillor section of the council website, the response she received said: “Thank you for taking the time to write to me, I appreciate your support and effort.
“Should you require any ward-related assistance, please feel free to contact me or my co-councillor.
“The most up-to-date information including intention for ward surgeries/contact details are listed on the council website.”
Ms Platts said: “Thousands of people took the time and trouble to have conversations with candidates and then go out and vote for Chandni Mistry and Bharti Gajjar to be their local councillors at the local elections.
“It is now their job to properly represent their communities at council meetings.
“That means listening to members of the public who come in to ask questions and put deputations or petitions to full council. Their voices deserve to be heard.
“It is a basic duty and should be an absolute priority for councillors to fully participate in the whole meeting by listening, asking questions on behalf of their constituents and voting.
“It is downright disrespectful to leave a full council meeting after less than an hour and even more so when a member of the public is presenting what was a quite distressing deputation.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service has emailed Councillors Mistry and Gajjar for comment four times since Wednesday 24 January, asking for responses on standards complaints, their email issues, why they left full council after less than an hour and their automated responses.
Neither has responded.
Green group convenor councillor Steve Davis said: “The suggestion they are not even responding to emails due to purported ‘technical difficulties’ leaves a distinctly bad taste in the mouth.
“We repeat our call that these councillors must stand down, their allowances handed back and for Labour to answer how these councillors were selected in the first place, given the scale of misconduct that is being suggested in the press.”
Labour said: “We reiterate our calls for Councillors Mistry and Gajjar to stand down so that by-elections can take place and the communities in Queen’s Park and Kemptown can be fully represented by new councillors.”
The council said: ““Residents who wish to make a formal complaint about the conduct of individual councillors can do so here.
“Our case management system for casework is just one of a number of ways in which councillors go about their work.
“It is intended as a tool to assist councillors to raise resident inquiries and is not used to monitor councillor activity.
“We are not aware of any current difficulties with the inboxes referred to.”