The Honour of Freedom of the City is granted under section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972 to “persons of distinction and persons who have, in the opinion of the Council, rendered eminent services to the City”.
Eminent service has been taken to mean commitment to a cause, voluntary or otherwise, for the City over a long period of time, twenty years or more. The individuals or organisations granted the Freedom have strong links with the City, but do not necessarily have to be residents.
The majority of Freedom awards have been to individuals.
Nominations for the award are usually made by elected members.
The Act provides that a special meeting of the Council must be convened with the specific object of passing the resolution to confer the title of Honorary Freedom – the highest honour that a Council of a City can bestow.
The procedure should be carried out with the utmost formality and the Honorary Freeman Elect should be invited to the Council Meeting and placed at the right hand of the Mayor. The Council Meeting can be conducted on a different day to the honour being conferred.
After the passing of the resolution a newly admitted Freeman should take the appropriate Freeman’s Oath and sign the Freeman’s Roll, and his/her signature being witnessed by the Mayor and Chief Executive.
A sealed and illuminated certificate of the grant of the Honorary Freedom containing a copy of the formal resolution contained in a suitable casket is then presented to the newly appointed Honorary Freeman by the Mayor, and an opportunity given for the recipient to reply.