DUDLEY-born comic turned Shakespearian actor Lenny Henry has finally been made an honorary Freeman of the Borough.

Councillors voted on Monday to push through a long-awaited proposal to grant the Black Country star the ceremonial title in recognition of his "outstanding” services to entertainment and global fundraising.

Lenny, one of the founders of Comic Relief which began in 1985, is the first celebrity to receive the honour in Dudley.

In the past, the title has only been presented to long-serving councillors and the military.

But at Monday’s meeting councillors agreed the honour could also be bestowed on anyone connected to the borough who has made an eminent contribution to charity or voluntary work, locally, nationally or internationally – and anyone born in Dudley who has contributed to the life of the borough or the nation in various fields including culture and entertainment.

Councillor David Sparks, leader of Dudley Council, said Dudley’s most famous comic had played a historic role in dealing with “racism through his comedy in a sensitive and constructive way”.

He also praised the TV funnyman's commitment to lifelong learning as Lenny, who grew up in St Thomas’s ward, has on top of his TV and comedy accolades gone on to earn himself an English literature degree from the Open University, an MA in script-writing, film and television from the University of London and he is now studying for a PHD specialising on black people in the media.

Cllr Sparks said: "Lenny Henry's exactly the kind of role model people have been looking for.

"He has popularised Shakespeare far more than anybody I've ever come across in my lifetime and as a founder member of Comic Relief he's been responsible for a process that has raised hundreds of millions of pounds for charity aimed at the world's poorest.

“He is undoubtedly truly deserving of this honour.”

Councillor Shaukat Ali, deputy leader, added: "Lenny's achievements are significantly worthy of recognition - they are outstanding for someone from such humble beginnings.

"For Lenny to accept this would be an honour for us all.”

Lenny, who has helped raise more than £800m for charity through Comic Relief and who already has a CBE to his name, will be invited to a celebratory event later in the year where he will be presented with a traditional Freedom of the Borough scroll.