24 March 2022

Meeting to decide on Andrew’s Freedom of York status postponed

24 March 2022

A meeting to decide whether the Duke of York should have his freedom of the city of York removed has been postponed due to “disquiet” among councillors over it being held online.

Andrew was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of York in 1987 but Liberal Democrats, who form the largest group on City of York Council, began moves to remove the privilege and this was due to be debated at a virtual meeting on Thursday evening.

But a council spokesman confirmed the meeting has been postponed after “disquiet” among councillors across all parties that it had been moved online due to a number of Covid cases among members.

Lord Mayor of York Chris Cullwick said: “While I want to thank council officers who have made very serious efforts to maintain the democratic process following a member request, it has become clear that there is disquiet across the political groupings at the arrangements put in place, which were devised to protect members, staff, and members of the public and press who might attend the meetings.

Labour MP Rachael Maskell has repeatedly said Andrew should give up his association with the city (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Archive)

“On that basis, as chair of the meeting, and following consultation with the Monitoring Officer, I have asked the Chief Operating Officer to adjourn the meetings until a new date in April.”

Mr Cullwick said the April meeting will be in-person.

He said: “My role as Lord Mayor, first citizen and particularly on this occasion, as chair of council is to maintain a proper neutrality and a respect for all political points of view.

“It has become clear throughout the day that members across most political groups are not all content with the arrangements made, and I have therefore decided that it would be in the best interests both of fairness and the democratic process, and maintaining the rights of those who would otherwise have to be absent through illness, to adjourn these meetings.

“This episode perhaps serves as a vivid reminder that this pandemic is still far from over, and that we all need to keep doing the right things to keep Covid at bay; washing our hands, wearing masks and maintaining a social distance when appropriate, isolating when positive, and getting our vaccinations an booster when offered.”

The councillors were due to debate the motion: “The Council resolves that, pursuant to Section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972, the City of York Council withdraws the Honorary Freeman of the City status from the Duke of York which was conferred upon him in 1987.”

The moves follows the settlement of Andrew’s legal battle with Virginia Giuffre.

Andrew has faced widespread calls for him to give up his Duke of York title, which is one of his last remaining major titles after the Queen stripped him of his honorary military roles and he gave up his HRH style.

Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who represents York Central, has repeatedly said Andrew should give up his association with the city out of respect.

The honorary freedom of the city is bestowed to recognise notable service by local residents, to distinguished people, and to royalty, the council has said.

Other recipients of the honour include the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill, film composer John Barry, and actress Dame Judi Dench.

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