The founder member and leader of one of Bolton’s most significant independent parties has resigned.

Cllr Paul Heslop announced today that he intends to step down with immediate effect as leader of One Kearsley.

The surprise move marks the end of a political journey which was marked by the founding of two political parties and a campaign that made his group crucial power brokers on Bolton Council.

Cllr Heslop said: “The decision to resign as a councillor is not one that has been taken lightly.

“For a few months, my mind has been in a state of ‘to-and-fro, stay-or-go’.

The Bolton News: Cllr Paul Heslop addressing a council meetingCllr Paul Heslop addressing a council meeting (Image: Bolton Council)

“For a while, I have discussed with my family and closest friends the fact that I miss travelling and don’t want to carry on being a councillor.  

“Over the last two months alone, two of my school classmates and a good friend have very sadly died, all three around my age.

“I’m not sure whether it is just me whose thoughts after the initial sadness of hearing such news - turns to one’s own mortality.  

“Virtually every one of my relatives and closest friends who I confided in said that I should be doing something that I really enjoy rather than something that is causing such anxiety, whilst also insisting that I should be making the most of my remaining life.”

Cllr Heslop had originally helped set up Farnworth and Kearsley First back in 2017.

The Bolton News: Cllr Paul Heslop was first elected after helping to found Farnworth and Kearsley FirstCllr Paul Heslop was first elected after helping to found Farnworth and Kearsley First (Image: Newsquest)

He was elected to represent the Kearsley ward with a large majority of 1,847 two years later in the 2019 local election.

But in February 2020 he then left the party he had helped found, saying he had been “struggling with its direction.”

The party he set up after leaving, One Kearsley, began with Cllr Heslop himself as its sole representative before going on to eclipse Farnworth and Kearsley First with three councillors elected in the most recent election of May this year.

He was elected alongside his colleagues Cllr Debbie Newall and Cllr Melanie Livesey.

After the most recent election, Cllr Heslop helped the current Labour administration come to power with a deal that secured funding for two key community hubs.

As part of the deal he also demanded that more council meetings be opened up to public scrutiny.

Cllr Heslop said: “Since May’s election, Labour has been running the council and funding was secured to bring two community facilities in Prestolee and Kearsley along with a commitment to ensure that virtually all decision-making meetings at the council are open to public scrutiny.

“Whilst I will not be actively supporting any one political party in the future, I will say the direction that the Labour administration is moving is very much welcome.

“Only this week, I was particularly glad to hear that services will be afforded much closer to where people live in the form of Family Hubs.”

He added: “Before resigning, I held talks with the Leader of the council, Cllr Nick Peel.

“I discussed options including the migration of all three One Kearsley Councillors to the Labour Party.

“Having reflected on the options, I decided that I may be just kicking a difficult decision into the long grass, and last Thursday decided to go with my Plan A and stop being a councillor altogether.

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“Kearsley will remain in the very safe hands of Debbie and Mel who I sincerely believe are the most caring and hardest-working councillors that we have seen in many, many years, I hope that this long continues.

“Following a couple of medical checks, I will hopefully be visiting Pakistan and India followed by Central America and then sub-Saharan Africa, it should keep me busy for a year or so.”

Council leader Cllr Nick Peel has paid tribute to Cllr Heslop’s contribution to Bolton politics.

Cllr Peel said: “Paul Heslop set himself a goal and I think in many, many ways he’s achieved that goal.

“Farnworth and Kearsley are now on the map and the Labour group has changed.”

He added: “I’d like to thank Paul for his service to the people of Kearsley.”

A by-election will be held in Kearsley at a later date.