OSWESTRY Town Council will not be able to make the bestowing of an honorary award gender neutral after seeking legal advice.

Last month, it was determined that the Freeman and Freewomen honours given by the council – last awarded prior to Covid-19 in 2019 – would be changed to ‘Honorary Oswestrians’ to mark its commitment to gender equality.

However, it was decided to delay the name change so that legal advice confirming whether a council could rename the award under the Local Government Act (1972).


In a report prepared for the council's full meeting on Wednesday, town clerk Arren Roberts confirmed that advice from both the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and also the National Association of Civic Officers (NACO), with both groups stating there is no provision for title changes.

In his report, he said: “Advice received from NALC highlights that the 1972 Act, as with much of the law, uses gendered terms they add that NALC corporately now uses gender-neutral terms in its guidance.

“Importantly, they note that they can only advise on the law and highlight that any other option (Honorary Oswestrian) “could conflate the statutory honorary titles of freeman and freewomen with the non-legal civic and ceremonial concept of freedom of the town, awarded to military regiments.

“Local councils do not have the power to confer freedom of the town/parish so I would avoid doing anything that suggests otherwise or causes confusion, particularly as what the council wishes to do is confer the title of freeman/ freewoman, albeit with an alternative style.

“NACO also note that the Act doesn't provide for anything other than Freemen or Freewoman and conclude that Oswestry Town Council could only appoint someone to either of these titles.

“The law talks about appointing to the Hon Title, not to the Freedom of the Town, etc.

“The advice highlights the legal position that Oswestry Town Council can appoint Honorary Freemen or Honorary Freewomen.”

Get in touch

Share your views on this story by sending a letter to the editor. To get in touch email news@bordercountiesadvertizer.co.uk, or fill in the form on this section of our website.

Mr Roberts has presented councillors with five options, including not appointing freemen or women as it is not a duty though no other option is offered.

The council could lobby for a change in the law, arguing that much has changed since its introduction; it could consider alternative ways of acknowledging the contribution of others; or it could focus on the honorary aspect and not the gender.

The meeting begins at 7pm.