A COUNCILLOR who was elected through the Lib Dems in two wards 150 miles apart has refused to give one of his seats up, leaving constituents in both areas furious.
Chris Twells who standing as a paper candidate and won his Cotswold seat, ousting the incumbent Tory candidate.
It has now been confirmed that he has been suspended from the Lib Dem party.
In a statement, the party said: “Mr Twells has been suspended after a complaint against him was assessed under the party’s complaints process,He is not employed by the party.”
Mr Twells beat a Conservative candidate by 60 votes to secure the Tetbury with Upton ward in Gloucestershire in the recent local elections, having defeated a Labour opponent to gain the Ordsall ward in Salford a year earlier.
Twells had offered to resign his Ordsall seat but “only when it’s possible to do it in a way that does not incur unnecessary expense for the taxpayer”. However, it seems that Mr Tweels was simply buying himself some time with the press, and has now provided ominous reasons why he believes he should keep both seats and the comfortable taxpayer’s cash that comes with them.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after a meeting of Salford City Council earlier, he said his suspension by the Lib Dems did not mean he had “done anything wrong and I’m hoping that within the next few months, the case will be resolved”.
“Like many people in this city, I have a job that requires me to move around a lot,” he said.
“I spend time living at two addresses [and] it’s well-known in the chamber where I live.”
He said he would be “playing a full part”, adding that the “workload of a councillor in an English district is not enormously onerous”.
“There’s a lot of work that can be done remotely,” he said.
“I’ve been doing casework for my residents in Tetbury before I came to the meeting this morning.”
He said holding seats on two councils at the same time was legal, as “your qualifications to stand for election can be based on occupying property or work”.
“I don’t want to worry anyone, but I’m technically qualified to stand for up to five districts in England and Wales,” he said.
“[That] is not what I’m going to be doing, but many people in this chamber will be qualified to stand from multiple addresses.
“I’m looking at a colleague who is a resident in Manchester, but is eligible to stand for Salford City Council by virtue of owning property [so] it’s not unusual.”
Despite receiving a backlash from angry constituents, he said he would be “criticised if I don’t step down and also if I do”, but added that by “this time next year, I will just be a councillor in Tetbury with Upton”.
“However, being a councillor is not a full-time job,” he said.
“I’m lucky in that I work for myself, I run my own consultancy and I do have that flexibility to attend meetings and do my work.”
The city’s Labour mayor Paul Dennett told that before Mr Twells’ success in the Cotswolds, he had “not been aware that this practice was entirely legal”.
“I think that everyone present can agree that legal or not, holding multiple council seats, registering multiple residences in different council districts, and standing for seats spanning the length and breadth of the country within short timeframes is against the spirit if not the letter of the law,” he added.
The controlling Labour group also passed a resolution, which stated that they believed Ordsall deserved “dedicated councillors that serve our community’s interest, not their own”.
They have also launched a petition, which stated that the councillor’s dual role “makes a mockery of the people of Salford” and called for his immediate resignation.