Lib Dem councillor urged to resign after winning second seat – 160 miles away
A councillor has faced calls to quit his seat in north-west England after winning a second election 160 miles away in Gloucestershire.
Chris Twells beat the Conservatives by 60 votes to secure the Tetbury with Upton ward at Cotswold District Council for the Liberal Democrats.
His victory comes 12 months after he defeated Labour to gain the Ordsall ward for the Lib Dems at Salford City Council, Greater Manchester.
Following the announcement that ‘paper candidate’ Councillor Chris Twells has been elected in the Tetbury with Upon ward in the Cotswolds (c.160 miles away from Salford) I’ve written to Salford Liberal Democrat @SalfordLibDems Group Leader Councillor Alex Warren @awliberal 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/uRTHuYcO7b
— SalfordMayor (@salford_mayor) May 5, 2023
Paul Dennett, the Labour mayor of Salford, asked Mr Twells to “do the right thing by the people of Ordsall and Salford and resign to focus on the Cotswolds”.
Mr Twells, speaking before the count, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he would resign his Salford seat if he won.
The Liberal Democrats said they will assess a complaint on whether Mr Twells potentially brought the party into disrepute by standing in two places.
A party spokesperson said: “Liberal Democrats are proud of our stunning wins today across the blue wall that have seen countless candidates elected, including some who never expected to win.
“We are aware a complaint has been made regarding this particular case, which will be considered by the party’s independent complaints process.”
In a letter to Salford Lib Dems group leader Alex Warren, Mr Dennett wrote: “Following the revelations that Councillor Twells was standing in Tetbury with Upton, you assured the Manchester Evening News that he was simply a ‘paper candidate’, his candidacy was a ‘technicality’ and that ‘he will not win’.
“You assured the press that Mr Twells ‘put a lot of work in and deserved to win his seat for Ordsall’.”
He added of Mr Twells: “He was clearly always more than a paper candidate – as is evident this morning.
“As such, I am asking you as the leader of the group to do the right thing by our residents and insist that Councillor Twells resigns his Ordsall seat to concentrate his attention on his life, work and now public office as a councillor in the Cotswolds.”
The Electoral Commission said there is “nothing in electoral law” stopping someone standing or taking office in two separate local authority areas – as long as they meet one of the qualifications for each area.
These include the person being registered as a voter for the local authority area they wish to stand, and living or having their main place of work in the area during the 12 months before the day of their nomination and election.
On the notice of poll form, Mr Twells was listed as having an address in the Cotswold district.
His declaration of interests for Salford includes details of an apartment in the city.
Mr Twells’ attendance record listed on the Salford City Council website said he was present as expected at four of 15 meetings.
Mr Twells was reported as saying after his latest victory: “I am delighted to have been elected to represent Tetbury with Upton ward and I would like to thank everybody who voted for me.
“I will be taking some time off over the weekend and speaking to the chief executive of Salford City Council after the bank holiday weekend to establish what action I need to take to resign as a councillor, to allow for a by-election to be held in my ward.”
His term of office at Salford is due to run until May 2026.
Electoral Commission guidance says a councillor will lose their seat if they fail to attend any meetings of the authority for a period of six months without being subject to a special exception.
Mr Twells has been approached for comment.