THE Labour Party has been left without election candidates in five Southend Council wards after a freak theft.
Nomination papers for next month's elections were stolen from the back seat of a car minutes before they were to be submitted.
One of the wards the party is now unable to contest is Prittlewell, where Ian Gilbert had been selected to challenge council leader Anna Waite.
Mr Gilbert, 27, who was Labour's youngest candidate, said: "I was looking forward to fighting on local issues in an important election."
The papers were stolen from the back seat of a car belonging to Southend West constituency secretary Ron Kennedy, who had stopped in Tintern Avenue, Westcliff, to get signatures from two party members before handing the forms in at the Civic Centre.
You have to feel very sorry for the people involved , but clearly Labour were leaving things until the last minute. Here in Rayleigh our (excellent) agent Ron took our six papers in last Thursday. One paper was rejected because of a query over one letter of a polling number. But Ron had given himself plenty of time to sort it out...
The result in Prittlewell last time was:
Lib Dems 926