Antrim UUP councillor 'lives and works in Dublin'

UUP councillor Ben Kelso
UUP councillor Ben Kelso

AN ULSTER Unionist councillor has rejected concerns that he is not properly fulfilling his elected role because he lives and works in Dublin.

Ben Kelso, an Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council member, works for Barclays bank in the Irish capital.

It emerged after another councillor dramatically resigned from the UUP and accused the party of failing to address his concerns over the matter.

Announcing his decision during a council meeting, John Scott said an Ulster Unionist councillor was "not pulling his weight".

The former mayor added: "He can swan about and do whatever, and I think it's an absolute disgrace, and I think the ratepayers of Newtownabbey should know about it."

Speaking further to the Antrim Guardian last week, he said Mr Kelso "cannot properly represent the Threemilewater area while he lives and works outside of Northern Ireland".

"I have wished Ben every success in his career. But I feel that there are great people already doing voluntary work in the community who would represent the ratepayers much better," he said.

Mr Kelso, who was elected in 2014, has attended four of the eight monthly council meetings since the beginning of the year.

But in an unusual arrangement, he does not sit on any council committees or other bodies to which the council appoints members.

Councillors receive a basic annual pay of around £14,300. According to the council's website, Mr Kelso did not claim any additional expenses in 2016/17 such as mileage.

According to his online LinkedIn page, Mr Kelso has worked for Barclays for several years.

However, it remains unclear how long Mr Kelso would spend in Dublin each week.

When the UUP representative stood for election, his home was listed with the Electoral Office as an address in Jordanstown.

Asked about his job and living arrangements, Mr Kelso was reluctant to comment on his "personal circumstances", but rejected suggestions that they affect his council work.

"I'm in Belfast equally as much as I'm in Dublin," the councillor added.

Asked again about his council colleague's concerns, he said to contact "the Ulster Unionist press office for comment".

The UUP press office declined to comment.

Mr Kelso later made his Twitter account private.

Under local government laws, a representative ceases to be a councillor if they fail to attend any meetings for six months and their absence has not been approved by the council.

Antrim and Newtownabbey council confirmed that Mr Kelso "is not a nominated member of any council committee nor is he a nominated member of any bodies that the council appoints members to".

However, a spokeswoman added: "Councillor Kelso fulfilled the necessary qualifications to be elected."