A TOWN crier who rang his bell for the last time after 21 years of service will not be replaced this year.

Burgess Hill Town Council has done a U-turn and decided not to find a successor for the retired crier, Neil Batsford, now.

It will review the matter next year.

Mr Batsford gave up his duties in May and was due to advise the town council on finding a replacement.

The 81-year-old said: “It was a fabulous job and I have many fond memories of my time as crier.

“I got to meet and greet visitors to the town and am very sad the role won’t be carried on.

“I wasn’t the egotistical type and I tried to do it by the book with dignity and to represent the town.

“I worked at the English film festival held in the town and I used to open it. Because I had a long cloak I was known as Napoleon.

“Another fond memory is when the Queen came to town when I was working.”

Councillors had expressed excitement at the prospect of selecting a new crier and originally planned to hold a public competition during the town festival.

But the competition never materialised and at the meeting of the full town council last month it was decided a review would take place next May to decide whether a crier was still needed.

Mr Batsford said: “I have lived here in the same house for 50 years.

“The last time I had talks with the council was about what we would do to get a replacement.

“I found out that they would not be doing this now from my daughter.

“I would have thought the council would have the courtesy to consult with me.

“I am upset that it seems to be a cost issue why this decision was made. I wasn’t in it to make a penny.”

The council also decided that if a town crier was ever needed for events, then one would have to be hired from outside Burgess Hill.

There have been no requests for the council to provide a crier for any events in Mid Sussex since Mr Batsford’s retirement.

The town mayor, Jacqui Landriani, presented him with a gift and thanked him for his community spirit and loyal service earlier this year at an annual ceremony.

Pru Moore, leader of the town council, said: “We will put it on hold for a year and then we will review it again after talking with locals.

“It will come down to what people in the area think but times are changing.

“We all know Neil well and he was a familiar figure around the town.”