Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Council to set out ground rules for 'Freedom' honour

Lesley houston

cteditorial@thect.co.uk

GROUND rules on how to deal with councillors' motions to grant the Freedom of the Borough are to be drawn up by North Down Borough Council.

A new policy and set of criteria to decide who or what body receives the prestigious council honour are to be compiled by a new sub-committee, expected to be formed at last night's meeting.

Previously, motions of this nature were decided in full council and were passed or rejected following a vote by the full membership of the council.

However, under a new sub-committee within the council's Corporate and Development Services Committee, criteria will also assess councillors' proposals for hosting of civic receptions.

Notice of the new rules was on the agenda for last night's full council meeting which also contained a motion for the granting of the Freedom of the Borough to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, proposed by Councillor Alan Chambers.

It follows Councillor Austen Lennon's claim in an online social network site that the reason for the committee was to effectively gag councillors from making such proposals.

In response, Mr Chambers then said the committee was being set up to decide on a policy over granting Freemen status which he described as a "big thing" which was costly to ratepayers.

Speaking to the Community Telegraph ahead of last night's meeting, Mr Chambers commented that up to now, notices of motion for the Freedom of Borough required only one signature. Henceforth, however, he envisaged the new rules would require more than one signatory for a motion to be upheld.

Referring to his own motion, he said: "I would have no difficulty with that and I have put no time limit on this motion and have simply put this in for some time in the future.

"My rationale is that North Down Borough Council has been in existence since 1973 and will shortly expire with the Review of Public Administration (RPA) and merge with Ards," he explained.

Stating that since 1973 most of the arms of the emergency services, including the PSNI and its predecessors the RUC; the UDR and the Royal National Lifeboat Association had received the honour, Mr Chambers said he believed these two remaining branches of the emergency services must not be overlooked.

"It would be remiss of the council to forget about these," he said. "We are running out of time to acknowledge all the people that need to be acknowledged and we have only about three years left before RPA ."

Mr Lennon however, said he is being excluded from the sub-committee - expected to have four members - and said he objected "to the remit as some councillors made it clear that they want restrictions placed on individual councillors to stop them making Freedom of the Borough proposals."

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