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Dudley Council in a tis-was after Lenny left waiting in the wings
4:10pm Tuesday 9th October 2012 in Local
DUDLEY Council is in a tis-was about honouring TV star Lenny Henry with one of the borough's highest accolades.
The authority was poised to approve Freeman of The Borough status for the Dudley-born comedian and charity worker at a full council meeting yesterday (October 8).
However Lenny was left waiting in the wings after councillors voted to put off giving the popular entertainer a gong - and instead decided to set up a committee to make some rules on who is entitled to be a Freeman.
Council leaders were quick to say the decision was not a reflection on the entertainer's suitability, but they needed to ensure the gravitas of the honour was maintained.
Opposition leader, Cllr Les Jones, argued rules on who gets the award are not clear.
He said: "The honour of Freeman has been used sparingly, almost exclusively for councillors with long-service or the military, but I accept we must not live in the past and be prepared to move with the times.
"It is important this accolade retains the gravitas it deserves and we need clear and agreed guidelines to achieve this."
Council leader, Cllr David Sparks, supported the delay and said he welcomed anything which improves the transparency of the decision making process.
The council decided to set up a cross-party working group on Freeman status to report at the end of November, when it would be decided if Lenny Henry will be a recipient.
Both leaders were quoted last month in an official Dudley Council statement, entitled Freedom of Dudley for Lenny, expressing their pleasure at offering the award to the celebrity.
The premature pronouncements left Lenny genuinely touched, after learning he was set to be made a Freeman he said: "It is wonderful news. My mum would have been very proud."
In the wake of councillors' decision to defer confirmation of the award, Cllr Jones told the News the outcome "makes the best of a bad job".
He said:"It would have been more embarrassing if we had a debate and people felt strongly enough to vote against it, that would have been worse.
"I don't want this to become political, I'm sorry this has happened, if we go through this process it will increase the value of the honour."
Despite the council being yet to make a decision, Cllr Sparks says plans to make Lenny a Freeman have not been delayed.
He said: "It doesn't affect Lenny Henry, I don't think anything could have been done differently, the group is looking at the criteria, not the individual."
Cllr Sparks expects the star to be approved and says plans for a ceremony to present the award are not being changed.
He said: "The timetable for Lenny Henry is the same as before."
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