QUESTIONS have been raised over the eligibility of a councillor to stand in the up-coming elections after he moved out of the borough to London to live with his girlfriend.

Residents have raised concerns that Cllr Tristan Robinson has been deceitful about where he lives and should not be allowed to stand in next month’s local elections in Sherborne St John for the Conservative party because he has not been living at the address listed on election documents.

The Electoral Commission states that candidates standing at local election must meet one of four qualifying criteria, which includes living in the local authority area during the whole of the 12 months before the election.

The other criteria are being registered as a local government elector; occupying land or other premises in the local authority area for 12 months before the elections; and working in the local authority area for 12 months before he elections.

Cllr Robinson, who is cabinet member for homes and families, works in West Sussex. The Gazette has asked Cllr Robinson if he meets any of the other criteria but he has not responded.

When asked by the Gazette about moving out of the borough, the 29-year-old admitted that he had been living with his girlfriend in London during the last lockdown for three months.

The government asked everyone to ‘stay at home’ during the last lockdown.

In a statement sent to the Gazette, he added: “In the November lockdown, like many young people in a long-term relationship but living in separate households, I was faced with the prospect of not seeing my partner for a significant period of time due to winter lockdown.

“Given the fact all council meetings were being held virtually, I chose to stay with my girlfriend who currently lives in London and continue to fulfil my duties as the elected representative for Sherborne St John.

“At all times, I have continued with my main residence in Sherfield-on-Loddon, in the borough I’ve been proud to call home since I was born in Basingstoke hospital.

“In the past few months, my girlfriend and I have viewed houses in the borough, including one in my ward at Ramsdell.”

The Conservative councillor’s home address is listed as in Sherfield-on-Loddon, at the same address as his father, fellow Conservative councillor Nick Robinson.

When asked by the Gazette if he thought his son was no longer eligible to stand as a councillor after moving out of the borough for three months, Cllr Nick Robison declined to comment.

Council leader Cllr Ken Rhatigan supported Cllr Tristan Robinson, saying he had a “difficult decision” to make.

He added: “Lots of people make different arrangements especially if they are single or in a relationship. Most people would have sympathy with the situation he is in. He’s on the electoral register and that’s his main residence.”

Asked if Cllr Robinson should stand down, Cllr Rhatigan said: “If he’s satisfied, I’m satisfied. People made extremely difficult decisions during lockdown, especially to retain relationships.

“People’s mental wellbeing is important and if your mental health suffers then it’s right to make those decisions for a period of time.”

A complaint was made to the borough council regarding Cllr Robinson moving away from the borough.

The council said it had responded.

Rebecca Emmett, the council’s returning officer, added: “Questions of eligibility or disqualification are for the candidate only and the returning officer cannot give advice on such matters. Nomination papers may be inspected at any point from the close of nominations up to the day before polling day.”

A resident from Sherfield-on-Loddon said neighbours were concerned about Cllr Robinson standing in the elections.

She told the Gazette: “He regularly visits his parents’ home at Wayback on Greenway but definitely no longer lives there.”

The resident said she was “shocked” that Cllr Nick Robinson “condones his son’s deception”, saying: “He knows Tristan no longer lives within the borough. And no doubt other Tory councillors know too.”

She added: “We want proper local councillors – not wannabe politicians using local council seats for their own gain. Tristan should stand for election in his own borough.

"Covid and Zoom meetings have allowed him to see out his current term of office but he should not be standing again. Our local councillors are important to us residents and should not be absentees.”