My oh My! Noddy Holder's freedom of Walsall cost taxpayers £13,000
Noddy Holder's freedom of Walsall award cost taxpayers more than £13,000, it has emerged.
The figure has sparked criticism as it came at a time when the borough council is making budget cuts of £21million, with hundreds of workers losing their jobs.
Council bosses have defended the cost – which covered the scrolls, sign writing, hospitality, flowers and recording the event to put on YouTube, saying the glam rock legend has promoted Walsall all over the world.
The figure, revealed through a freedom of information request, has sparked a debate over whether it was worth the expense at a time when Walsall Council is having to make millions of pounds worth of cuts.
What do you think? Is Noddy worth it? Join the debate in the comments section below.
The Slade frontman, born in Caldmore, received the honour in June during an event at Walsall Council House, with fans flocking to the town hall to watch proceedings on a big screen.
The FOI request was submitted by Harry Methley, a former chairman of Aldridge-Brownhills Conservative Future group.
Mr Methley was less than impressed with the cost, saying on Twitter: "£13,000 is far too much money to spend on something that brings absolutely zero benefit to the town."
But bosses at Walsall Council have argued the 68-year-old singer is one of the Black Country's most famous stars and deserved the accolade for the boost he has given the area during his career.
Blakenall Councillor Pete Smith, who spearheaded the campaign to get 68-year-old Noddy the freedom award, said: "I must say I didn't know that it cost £13,000. We don't give these honours out frivolously. There have only been a dozen given out in 100 years.
"Given his fame and his contribution over half a century, and he is a Walsall lad and calls Walsall his home, we were right to give him it.
"One of the last things Noddy said to me was if there were ever any charity events he would support them for free. The council voted unanimously for this."
Councillor Smith also said Noddy received exactly the same treatment as Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad, who received the freedom accolade in December.
Tory Councillor Mike Bird, who was leader of the council when Noddy received the award, added: "As far as I'm concerned the freedom of the borough is the highest honour we can give people. It is a prestigious award and as a result we should not look at the cost.
"I think we need to look at what Noddy has done for Walsall. Whether you like him or not, he is world renowned. When he is asked the question where is he from, he always says Walsall. That is promotion of our borough."
Walsall Council decided to hand the freedom of the borough to Noddy in November last year in recognition of his services to the entertainment industry for more than 40 years.
When Noddy was handed the gong, the public gallery at Walsall's council chamber was full with fans watching the special ceremony.
Around 250 people filled seats in the town hall to watch the event live on the big screen.
After the council unanimously confirmed the motion, the roll of freeman was signed by Noddy and the Walsall Mayor, Councillor Smith.
He was also presented with a silver casket containing the illuminated scroll by the mayor.
Noddy admitted to getting 'choked up' and feeling chuffed. Fans travelled from Manchester and Canada to be in the public gallery. The new council leader, Labour's Sean Coughlan, said a protocol that all freedom of the borough applications would need to follow in the future was currently being drawn up.
He said: "The Labour party wanted a protocol in place before the freedom was handed out to Noddy but it wasn't.
"It is something we are looking at bringing in. It means anyone else who receives this award in future has to follow a set protocol."
The council faces £104m of savings over five years and more than 200 jobs have already gone.
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