A LONG-SERVING borough councillor has resigned because of ill-health – the after-effects of becoming a victim of violence.

John Downes, 61 (right), a revenue protection officer for South West Trains, said he decided to step down because he had been struggling to regain his confidence after being attacked at Guildford station last year and he wanted to focus on getting better. He lost some teeth in the attack when a man punched him.

Mr Downes’ resignation has now prompted a by-election to be called to fill the Chineham seat he had held for seven years.

He said: “When I come home from a shift, I found it more difficult to get out – I found it more difficult to participate on issues.”

Mr Downes, who represented Upton Grey at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for three years before winning his Chineham seat, said he had received a lot of support and was getting better.

He added: “I hope in a year or so I can come back to the council.”

In the meantime, he vowed to continue highlighting matters he thought needed attention.

“I certainly won’t be retiring into the background,” he said. “It will allow me to be forthright on issues like energy-saving and youth issues.”

Helping to secure money for a new extension to Chineham Scout Hut was one of the issues Mr Downes felt pleased about having been involved in.

Both Mr Downes and the Conservative Party denied a rumour he had been on the verge of being deselected from the seat he held with a majority of 1,013.

Mr Downes, honorary vice-president and former chairman of Basingstoke Conservative Association, said: “It’s absolute nonsense.”

Association chairman Nigel McNair Scott said: “John has served the borough with distinction over many years. It is indeed sad that he has been forced to resign due to ill-health. John is, and will continue to be, a valued member of Basingstoke Conservatives.”

He added: “We look forward to welcoming John back to our meetings as soon as his health permits.”

The Conservatives have selected Chineham parish councillor Paul Miller as their candidate for the by-election, which will be held on Thursday, October 15. Nominations close on September 18, and the last date for receipt of postal votes is September 30, at 5pm. The polling station at Chineham Village Hall will open from 7am to 10pm.