MUSSELBURGH’S longest serving councillor has announced he will not be seeking re-election next year.

The race for the East Lothian Council elections is starting to hot up, with Councillor John McNeil confirming he will be standing down after almost two decades’ service.

At the same time, his Labour colleagues Jim Goodfellow and Norman Hampshire have confirmed they will be standing for re-election, while Conservative candidate Lachlan Bruce has thrown his hat into the ring in Preston/Seton/Gosford ward.

Mr McNeil, Musselburgh West member, has been looking at buying property in Spain although he would retain his home at Stoneybank Grove if he decided to do so.

The 65-year-old, who has suffered two heart attacks and two mini strokes in recent years, said his health was only “10 per cent” of the reason behind his decision to call time on his political career.

He revealed he was “hurt” after not being given a senior political position on the council’s cabinet after the 2012 elections, which saw Labour form a coalition administration with the Conservatives and independent John Caldwell.

Mr McNeil said: “I think one of the reasons I want to go is I haven’t always fitted in with certain things.

“Musselburgh does not have, for whatever reason, a member of the council representing them on the cabinet.

“So Musselburgh has to rely on others who represent other areas.

“In 2012, I was informed by the Labour Group that there was no room for me on the cabinet – that hurt. It has stayed with me. It is the main reason why I want to go. I don’t want to come back and go through that again.

“To be honest, if you are not involved in a role, you are on the outside, looking in.

“I was given a position on the police board which lasted for nine months but I would have liked to have been in control of something.”

He added: “My life on the council has been fabulous and I have done my bit where it was needed but I am no longer happy about doing the job. I will go extremely happy, knowing I did the best I could have done for the people I represent. I have always said, if I can help somebody through my powers of persuasion in the council, I have done a bit of good.

“I think 18 years is enough. You have to start enjoying your own life and I feel it is a younger person’s game. We need to let our young people go forward.”

Mr McNeil, who joined the council in 1999, paid tribute to the late John Ross, a Musselburgh councillor, saying: “He was a real socialist and very caring person. I still miss him to this day.”

Mr McNeil, a former chairman of the Musselburgh Labour Party branch, has served on the council with three chief executives, three provosts, two Labour group leaders and various opposition leaders over the years.

In July, Mr McNeil was a senior magistrate at the Riding of the Marches, Musselburgh’s ancient boundary-marking ceremony, which takes place every 21 years.

He has also been honorary provost of the Musselburgh Festival on two occasions.

Mr McNeil opened a ladies’ clothes shop Zantia, better known locally as ‘Frocks by Johnny’, in Musselburgh in 1981, which closed in 2006 when his mum, Ella, died.

He is holding a leaving party at Our Lady of Loretto Church Hall on April 28, for those who have helped him during his time as a councillor.

Meanwhile, Mr Goodfellow, a former chemistry teacher at North Berwick High School, confirmed he was seeking to be re-elected in the North Berwick Coastal ward.

He said: “I’ve worked tirelessly over the last four-and-a-half years to represent the communities that make up the North Berwick Coastal ward and serve their interests on the council. Much has been achieved during this time to improve local services, but there is much more to be done.”

Similarly, Mr Hampshire, who first became a councillor in 1988, is hoping to once again be elected in the Dunbar and East Linton ward and said: “I have worked very hard to be a good representative for the ward and am honoured to have the opportunity to continue standing up for this area as one of its councillors.”

Finally, Mr Bruce, who represented East Lothian on the Scottish Youth Parliament five years ago, is also aiming to be elected.

The Port Seton resident, who stood unsuccessfully in 2012, said: “As a local resident, I understand the problems facing many of the people who live here and want to provide them with a strong voice on the council.

“For example, I believe that East Lothian is currently being asked to build too many houses, which is putting pressure on the county’s infrastructure, such as our schools and GP surgeries.”