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I'm "overwhelmed" by my Freedom of the City award, says Mike Layland
A FORMER Worcester councillor handed Freedom of the City has spoken of his immense pride - saying he's been "overwhelmed".
Mike Layland, who retired in 2012 after more than 40 years service, described the accolade as his greatest achievement of all time.
As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, the city council voted to bestow the award on the 77-year-old, with lengthy tributes being paid to him.
Mr Layland was not at the meeting on Tuesday because had promised to attend a Worcestershire and Sherwood Forestors Association get-together.
He said minutes after the vote had finished text messages started to fly in, and he knew he was a Freeman.
"I can't believe it, it's such a wonderful feeling - if I went back to the beginning I'd do it all again," he said.
"I've had so many people say thanks, had cards through the door, people ringing me up - one chap even said 'why don't you come back'.
"I looked back in one diary the other day, from 2000 - I used to deal with around 12 inquiries a day, I think 'how the hell did I do that''?
"It's not for me, it's for my family. All those years, going back to when I was young, I'd go back and do it all again if I could.
"I am so grateful."
Mr Layland, of Shap Drive, Warndon, also says he has respect for the two Labour councillors who voted against him.
Jo Hodges and Roger Berry both criticised the award, saying other councillors have done similar spells of service and held more senior roles without being honoured.
Mr Layland was first elected in 1966 for Labour but quit the party in 1992, saying he wanted the freedom of being an independent.
His decision led to him defeating Cllr Berry at the elections, just one reason why there has been tensions between both sides since.
Mr Layland said: "I felt terrible, Roger was due to become the mayor if he won so it must have hurt.
"But I was never in politics to hurt people, I felt awful about that."
Mr Layland was Mayor of Worcester twice, city Chamberlain and High Sheriff during his career.
Among his voluntary roles were 27 years running the Worcester Carnival committee, head of the racecourse committee for Pitchcroft and part of the body overseeing Perdiswell Young People’s Leisure Club, which he is still involved in.
He was at the Territorial Army centre in Silver Street when the news was broken to him.
"It was around ten to eight, I got a text from Simon Geraghty (Tory group leader), then Councillor David Tibbutt, then one from a pub I visit on a Saturday night - I had no idea how they knew, it must have got around quite fast," he said.
"So I went and told the chairman I'd been made a Freeman, he stopped the meeting and everyone stood up for me.
"I could not have wished to be in a better place, surrounded by friends. It is such a wonderful feeling."
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