Bexley Council has denied allegations from the opposition suggesting it purposely orchestrated a meeting to prevent Orpington MP Gareth Bacon being suspended from his council role for non-attendance.

Local Government law dictates councillors who do not attend a council meeting for six months face being disqualified from their authority.

However, Bexley Labour have alleged Cllr Bacon – who was elected MP for Orpington in December, alongside his role representing Bexley and Bromley in the London Assembly – was a day short of the six-month threshold when he attended a virtual cabinet meeting on May 5.

In a letter to council leader Teresa O’Neill seen by the local democracy reporting service, Bexley Labour questioned the “curious timing” of the meeting, adding it was the first Cllr Bacon had attended since November 6 last year.

“It was therefore extremely convenient for him that a last-minute addition to the council calendar was added for a meeting to be held on 5th May, which he virtually dialled into and spoke at,” Labour leader Dan Francis wrote on behalf of  the party.

In response to the letter, Cllr Bacon accused Cllr Francis of “peddling a rather silly conspiracy theory”, saying most council members had attended the meeting.

He also confirmed he would continue to sit on the London Assembly and Bexley Council for the coming year alongside his position in the House of Commons, after all local elections were postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Bacon had previously stated his intention was to stand down from the two local authorities at the Greater London Authority/Mayoral elections which had been scheduled for this month.

“I have no option (to leave the council or London Assembly)…my intention was to resign from the council in March so that a by-election could be held on the same day at the GLA/Mayoral elections in May, when both my Assembly and local Council seats could be filled by other people,” he said.

He said if subsequent amendments were made allowing local government by-elections to be held, he would resign his council position “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

“Until that time I will take part in as many virtual meetings as possible,” he said.

Holding on to all three government roles could see Cllr Bacon earn more than £110,000 in the coming year.

While his London Assembly salary was automatically reduced by two-thirds following his election as MP – dropping to £18,756.66 from £56,270 – he will also earn a basic MP’s salary worth up to £81,932.

He’ll also remain eligible to earn his full Bexley Council allowance, worth £9,767.55 over the last year.

It’s not the first time the Longlands ward member’s earnings have attracted controversy – his salary as London’s highest-paid councillor in 2015 topped £108,000, after he was named chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority by Boris Johnson, in addition to roles with Bexley Council and the London Assembly.

Labour’s letter also saw the party raise concerns over the length of time Bexley Council may go without a planning committee or scrutiny meetings.

While council leader Teresa O’Neill said she would respond to Cllr Francis’ directly, she refuted suggestions the May 5 meeting was scheduled for Cllr Bacon’s benefit, stating it “was set up as it was a very important matter to our residents”.