A LONG-STANDING Valleys councillor resigned yesterday.

Independent Blackwood councillor Kevin Etheridge, who was first elected as a county councillor in the town in 1999 said the decision was made for "personal reasons."

Mr Etheridge's father Ken died last month aged 89 and he also makes frequent trips to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where his grandson is getting treatment for a genetic condition.

He said: "There's a lot going on in my family life and I've been an elected member for 11 years so it's time to start putting my family first."

Mr Etheridge was brought up in Wyllie before living in Risca then Pontllanfraith.

He contested his first election in the Risca East ward in 1983 and went on to fight the Islwyn seat as a Liberal Democrat against Don Touhig in the 2001 general election, finishing runner-up to the Labour stalwart.

He was a staunch opponent of the location of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, Highbury House in Blackwood and also campaigned against the privatisation of the Patent Office more than 20 years ago.

Mr Etheridge added: "I'm 52 and my family have got to come first, this has been quite a stressful time."

A council spokesman confirmed they received his letter of resignation, but declined to comment further.

Blackwood councillor Kay Presley said: "He's done an excellent job serving the people of Blackwood and I know he's much admired. I'd like to wish him all the best."

Former Blackwood town mayor Andrew Farina-Childs confirmed yesterday he intends to fight the forthcoming by-election as a Plaid Cymru candidate: "We all know he's a damn good councillor and he'll be a hard act to follow."

Blackwood councillor Keith Smallman said he was saddened by the news and felt people in the town have "lost a good friend and a good worker."

A spokeswoman for the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said it is investigating a complaint about Mr Etheridge, but could not confirm the nature of the complaint or when a decision is due.