UUP councillor resigns his seat

UUP Cllr Ben Kelso
UUP Cllr Ben Kelso

A UUP councillor on Newtownabbey and Antrim Council has resigned from politics to focus on his career - with the best wishes of the party.

Ben Kelso, who was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in 2014 is employed by Barclays bank in Dublin.

Alderman Mark Cosgrove, UUP Group leader on the council said: “I was very sad to hear of Ben`s decision to stand down as a councillor as he has always been a dedicated member of the Ulster Unionist team serving the people of Antrim and Newtownabbey. Ben`s career outside politics is flourishing and he has always been honest and up front about developments.

“I was delighted to see a young man like Ben get elected in 2014, and sad as I am to see him go, we will select an equally capable replacement in the coming days. I wish Ben all the best for the future as he serves out his remaining days on Antrim and Newtownabbey Council.”

Councillor Kelso said he had informed Mr Cosgrove earlier this of his intention to stand down as councillor in order to focus on his “growing responsibilities outside of politics”.

He will continue as councillor until a replacement is found and will remain “a committed member of the Party” he added.

Earlier Mr Kelso hit back at claims that he is not “pulling his weight”, after it emerged he lives and works in the Republic of Ireland.

UUP councillor John Scott publicly resigned from the party over the matter last month, claiming that one of his colleagues was not fulfilling his duties as a elected representative.

But councillor Kelso has rejected Cllr Scott’s concerns and said his role as a councillor is “in no way impacted” by his Dublin-based job.

He told the News Letter yesterday: “I live in the Newtownabbey area and spend an equal amount of time there as I do in Dublin.

“The proximity of my work to the council office does not affect my role as a councillor in any way.”

Mr Kelso, who has attended four of the eight monthly council meetings since the beginning of the year, said his work in Dublin had no bearing on his attendance at meetings.

“Being a councillor is about more than simply attending council meetings,” he added. “I was on an extended holiday this year and so I was not able to attend some of the meetings.”

When asked why he does not sit on any council committees or other bodies to which councillors are appointed, Mr Kelso said it allows a better work-life balance, and that other members do likewise.

“My 9-5 job and my duties as an elected representative on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council are completely separate and one does not impact the other.

“I am really not sure what the issue is.”

According to the council’s web site, Mr Kelso did not claim any additional expenses in 2016/17 such as mileage.

Cllr Kelso said he had been surprised by his former party colleague’s remarks and claimed Cllr Scott had not raised the matter with him prior to announcing he was quitting the party.

“I think this came as a surprise to all in the party grouping, myself included,” Cllr Kelso added.