A COUNCILLOR whose town centre bars were closed by Barnsley Council due to unpaid rent arrears totalling more than £100,000 has quit his political party with immediate effect.

Barnsley Liberal Democrats announced that Mat Crisp stood down from his role as councillor for Darton East in a statement released on Wednesday.

Mr Crisp, whose company True Independent Group owns both The Salt House and Black and White in Barnsley town centre, has been under fire since the local authority closed both businesses last month due to unpaid rent arrears.

He told the Chronicle yesterday that The Salt House would not reopen under his leadership.

“I would like to say a big thank you to the leader of the council Sir Steve Houghton for his vision which has resulted in the wonderful Glass Works.”

He had already announced that he would not be re-standing at next May’s elections - and the seat will remain vacant until then.

On his resignation, he said: “The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for me, my family and all my employees.

“I also recognise the pressure that the situation has placed on my Lib Dem colleagues.

“I have therefore decided to resign from my role as councillor with immediate effect.

“I hope that this will allow the Lib Dem team to focus on the fantastic work they do without facing further questions and interrogation about my business.

“It will also allow me to safeguard my own mental health and to focus on my family.

“It has been a huge privilege to be elected and to work as a councillor for the residents of Mapplewell, Staincross, Darton, Windhill and Woolley Colliery, alongside my colleagues Couns Steve Hunt and Dickie Denton.

“I have seen first-hand the difference that a hard-working Lib Dem councillor team can make to their communities, and think it is best that I step away now to allow the team to focus on working with and for their residents.”

Coun Hannah Kitching, who leads Barnsley’s Liberal Democrat group, added: “I have been very clear that this matter is a personal and business one, not a political one.

“However I understand the immense pressure that the last few weeks have put onto Mat, his family and also his Lib Dem colleagues.”