ONE of Worcester's best-known sons has been handed Freedom of the City - a salute to more than 40 years public service.

Mike Layland, a veteran former councillor who retired in 2012, was handed the honour after all but four members of Worcester City Council voted it through last night.

The 77-year-old, who represented Nunnery before stepping down, now joins the likes of Worcester Warriors owner Cecil Duckworth, Sir Edward Elgar and former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in getting the award.

During the debate two Labour councillors, Jo Hodges and Roger Berry, voted against it, with Cllr Hodges claiming fellow politicians are "afraid of negative press".

But despite her remarks all but two of the rest of the chamber backed the motion, leading to warm tributes.

Councillor David Tibbutt said: "He was born here, raised here, educated here and has served this city for a little less than half a century.

"He was always available 24/7, he never passed the buck, he argued his points vociferously but he always listened."

Councillor Roger Knight also led the tributes, saying he served the city "supremely well".

"No-one deserves this award more than Mike Layland does," he said.

"It's obvious to all who know him that this honour is so well deserved - we shouldn't be debating which way to vote, we should be standing up and applauding."

Cllr Hodges argued that Mr Layland, who served Nunnery, did not make "a contribution outstanding enough" to get the Freedom of the City.

She said: "Are we now saying that longevity in office is sufficient enough to confer the honour of Freedom of the City?"

She told the room what people like Mr Duckworth had given "back to the city" was "way beyond what could be expected", whereas Mr Layland's public service was "not above and beyond" many current councillors.

She also said she was "quite well prepared" for what she deemed "negative press", insisting her colleagues were "afraid".

But Councillor Richard Boorn, also from Labour, said he was "in no doubt" how people across the city wanted him to vote, saying he backed it.

Councillor Marc Bayliss said: "For some people I suspect it wouldn't matter if Mike served 144 years - I regret that.

"To get to over 40 years service, the huge contribution he made to this city, it should be recognised."

Councillor Lucy Hodgson said his life read like "a roll of honour".

Mr Layland was first elected in 1966, and up to 2012 he served all but two years as a Worcester councillor.

He was Mayor of Worcester twice, a former city Chamberlain and High Sheriff, and has described it as "the greatest honour of my life".

Labour's Paul Denham and Alan Amos abstained during the vote.

Mr Layland was first elected for the Labour Party but quit to become an independent.