'Fantastic' Portsmouth key workers granted freedom of the city
'FANTASTIC' key workers around Portsmouth have been unanimously granted freedom of the city in an historic gesture to say thank you for their work during the pandemic.
The city has become the first in the UK to grant the accolade to those who have key worker status in the city - from binmen and shop assistants, to emergency services staff and military personnel who worked throughout lockdown.
Councillors of all political parties approved the honour during a full council meeting today (March 16) where they shared their thanks.
Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'It's so right to recognise all the work, support, friendship and care given by so many people in the city to so many others. The idea of giving freedom of the city is just a small way of saying thank you to so many.
'You have been absolutely wonderful. You have been tremendous and an inspiration to us all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those who have helped us through the pandemic.'
Conservative group leader, Cllr Donna Jones, agreed. She said: 'We have heard so much about the doctors and nurses and NHS heroes, which is quite right as they have done a fantastic job in the last 12 months keeping us safe and saving thousands of lives, as well as helping with the roll-out of the vaccines.
'We have heard about the care workers and teachers. But it is also about the supermarket workers.'
Only 33 people have been bestowed the honour since 1895, with prime minister Winston Churchill and Princess Diana among its recipients.
Although a symbolic gesture, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said those who have earned the freedom of the city will have special rights in Portsmouth that include being allowed to march sheep through Guildhall Square and marching though the city with bayonets.
It is expected the honour will be officially marked during the mayor making ceremony in May.
As reported, Portsmouth Cathedral in Old Portsmouth will extend its opening hours during the National Day of Reflection on March 23, the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
And a special service will also be broadcast from the cathedral’s Facebook and YouTube accounts on the day at 11.45am.