Long-distance councillor Brian Riley forced to resign from Suffolk County Council

Suffolk County Councillor for Hadleigh Brian Riley.

Suffolk County Councillor for Hadleigh Brian Riley. - Credit: Archant

Nearly 18 months after he emigrated from Hadleigh to North Carolina, Suffolk County Councillor Brian Riley has been forced to resign.

He has stood down just days before he would have been removed from the authority after failing to attend a meeting for more than six months.

Mr Riley has contacted us to say that he has decided to “stand back from politics” – except trying to play a small role in getting Hillary Clinton elected as US President!

He was elected Conservative county councillor for Hadleigh in May 2013, winning the seat that had been held by Liberal Democrat David Grutchfield for 24 years before he retired from the authority.

However in March 2015 Mr Riley announced that he was emigrating to Raleigh in North Carolina, but intended to continue as county councillor from his new home nearly 4,000 miles from Suffolk.

He returned to the county from time to time, and attended occasional county council meetings, meaning he could still claim his allowance of £10,273. However he was not entitled to claim expenses for his travel to the UK.

The law says that while councillors can retain their seats after moving away from the area they represent, they do have to attend at least one meeting every six months – unless they get special dispensation, usually only granted for illness or because they are serving in the forces as a reservist.

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Mr Riley last attended a meeting in February, and had to call off a meeting in May – meaning the six-month cut off is this week. He resigned just before the deadline.

His resignation means there will now be a by-election in Hadleigh, but whoever is elected will only serve a few months before the next all-out county council elections in May 2017.

The Conservatives have already selected a candidate to fight the seat – Babergh councillor Kathryn Grandon – and the Liberal Democrats and Labour are expected to select their candidates soon.

Mr Riley said he had hoped to stay in touch with events in Hadleigh by e-mail and Skype, and earlier this year wrote to us to outline what he felt he had achieved while living in the US.

However in an e-mail from Raleigh, North Carolina, he said: “I am standing back from politics – except for being a minor character in trying to get Hillary elected in this swing state.”