LONG-standing Petworth town councillor Tony Sneller has quit his seat after more than 16 years of service to the community.
He was one of three long-serving members to be returned to the council in May, almost at the top of the poll with 800 votes.
But he has handed in his resignation, saying he enjoyed being a councillor but was involved in many aspects of community life and it had become ‘the least productive and effective use of my time and the least fulfilling of all’.
A tight lipped Mr Sneller would only comment to the Observer: “In recent times the ability to influence the decision making seems to have become more limited, hence my reappraisal.”
There has been an uneasy peace since the publication of a damning report into the council’s financial affairs a year ago which found standards ‘woefully inadequate’.
Concerns were expressed when former clerk Jean Huggett retired in May 2014 and new clerk Rebecca Knifton took over. The report was made public by the new-look council for the sake of ‘transparency and openness’.
There was no evidence of any impropriety and in March Mrs Huggett received the apology she had been demanding.
Although the new town council said it had drawn a line under the matter, the issue opened up a crack between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Petworth.
And chairman of the Petworth Society Peter Jerrome referred to the widening community gap, likening the current situation to the ‘fraught’ days of the bypass debate, in the new edition of the society’s magazine.
“I see an older perhaps bemused Petworth looking at a new generation of movers and shakers and saying ‘who are these people? Do I know them?”
Petworth needed new faces and new ideas, he said, but issued a note of caution: “New voices do need to engage with the spirit of the town they claim to serve.”
He added: “If new voices are perceived, however unjustly, as a mere layer on the surface of the town, the whole town becomes dislocated.”
Mr Jerrome told the Observer: “My remarks were addressed to what I see as an ongoing debate in the town.
“I neither see them as controversial nor as a defence of ‘old’ against ‘new.’
The Petworth Society’s responsibility to the town is to probe points of tension, and where it can, to allay them.
“It’s responsibility is certainly not to ignore such tensions, but still less is it to exacerbate them.
“If the society is perceived as other than even handed, it has failed the town it exists to serve.”
Vice chairman of Petworth Town Council Roger Hanauer said: “I took Peter Jerrome’s piece to be positive rather than negative. I think he is trying to draw the town together. His heart is in the right place and he does not like confrontation.
“We have had our ups and downs with Tony Sneller, but he has done an awful lot for this town and we will miss his honesty, commitment and experience.
“I do feel we now have a good, positive group on the council with lots of talent and are perhaps more forward looking than we have been in the past.”
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