Red-faced town hall chiefs have been forced to suspend a decision to award comic Lenny Henry the freedom of his home town – because he does not have military experience.
Lenny, 53, was told last week he was to be honoured for his showbiz career and charity work by being named an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Dudley, West Mids.
But days later the council were forced into an embarrassing U-turn after it emerged only long-standing councillors or war heroes could be given the honour.
A bizarre public meeting held on Monday night saw Dudley Council fail to decided whether the town’s most famous son met the authority’s “criteria” for the award.
Councillors were expected to officially grant the comedian the honour as a formality – but were forced to postpone the decision until November.
Conservative Leader Councillor Les Jones even called for a dedicated working party to be formed to decide whether Lenny was a suitable choice.
Cllr Jones said the accolade had previously been bestowed on councillors who had served for 35 years or military regiments with long-standing ties to the borough.
Lenny was put forward for the honour for his contribution to show-business over the past 30 years along with his charity work with Comic Relief.
And just a few days ago Lenny spoke of his delight of learning of his accolade.
He said: “It is wonderful news. I am very touched. My mum would have been very proud.”
But on Monday the council deferred the decision on the grounds that if changes were to be made to the criteria – they had to be “properly considered” so they could set out guidelines for the future.
Cllr Jones said: “I want this to be a civic rather than a political issue so members of the public can clearly see why someone has received this award and why others may be refused.
“It is important this accolade retains the gravitas it deserves and we need clear and agreed guidelines to achieve this.”