Councillor steps down over feud

Town leaders in Watton have been challenged to throw themselves upon the mercy of the public in a bid to restore community confidence. The second town councillor to resign in a week, John Bunning, called yesterday for all 13 remaining members of Watton Town Council to put themselves up for re-election.

Town leaders in Watton have been challenged to throw themselves upon the mercy of the public in a bid to restore community confidence.

The second town councillor to resign in a week, John Bunning, called yesterday for all 13 remaining members of Watton Town Council to put themselves up for re-election.

Mr Bunning said he quit because he felt the council had been tarnished and left paralysed by the feud between mayor Keith Gilbert and councillor Bryan Wykes.

His decision follows the resignation last week of former mayor John Craigie who admitted the tensions within the council had contributed to his decision.

Both Mr Gilbert and Mr Wykes have resisted a formal request from other members that they step aside to stop their disagreement further damaging the council.

Town councillors recently boycotted their own civic service, with only a fifth of members turning up, and last Monday the council backed a motion to remove Mr Gilbert from all committee meetings.

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Mr Bunning said: “The council has got a bad name in the town now. All the other councillors need to put themselves forward to be re-elected. That is the only way forward.

“There was so much bickering going on and none of them will say sorry. It just keeps going on and on.

“I joined the council to improve Watton. I feel sad to leave but things weren't getting done. We kept getting stopped in our tracks by this.

“There will be more people leaving the council. All the decent councillors are resigning.”

He said the final straw came when he asked Mr Gilbert and Mr Wykes to shake hands at a meeting on Monday night but the pair refused.

Both Mr Gilbert and Mr Wykes rejected Mr Bunning's call for the entire council to stand down, while deputy mayor Paul McCarthy said he did not think “resigning would resolve anything” but he was considering the best way forward for the council.

The disagreement between the two men flared up after Mr Gilbert put out election leaflets making allegations against Tory candidate Mr Wykes during the local elections in May.

This prompted the south-west Norfolk Conservatives to issue a rebuttal and report him to the police for making a false statement - but the matter is no longer being investigated.

The two vacant posts will either be filled by a by-election or new members will be co-opted on to the council.

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