New Year’s Honours should be for community heroes, not the rich and powerful

Maureen Dougall who has been given the British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours, for services to the community, at St Laurence Church, Brundall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Maureen Dougall who has been given the British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours, for services to the community, at St Laurence Church, Brundall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

Whose names can you remember from this year’s New Year’s Honours?

Minnie Newcombe, 86, known as Dolly, of Barton Turf has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours.

Picture: MARK BULLIMOREMinnie Newcombe, 86, known as Dolly, of Barton Turf has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Dame Barbara Windsor? Sir Anthony McCoy? Damon Albarn OBE? Imelda Staunton CBE? Idris Elba CBE?

At least one of these famous names will have grabbed your attention –having seized the headlines.

Not surprisingly, we all home in on names that we recognise. And – sadly – lots and lots of people watch EastEnders, so will recognise and even admire Dame Babs.

But it’s all wrong, and it gets under my very thin skin.

David Gifford from North Wootton, has be awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours list. Picture: Matthew Usher.David Gifford from North Wootton, has be awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours list. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Every year, wealthy celebrities receive honours for doing their job. And that’s often all they have done.

In the same way that I have been a journalist for 24 years, and you may have been an accountant or a shop worker for decades, actors, sporting stars and other celebrities are often getting gongs for turning up at the office (reasonably) regularly.

Now I’m not angling to be made an MBE (I’d prefer a knighthood); I’m genuinely concerned at how the current honours system dishonours the most deserving people of all.

And that’s why I have a proposal; why can’t we have the New Year’s Honours separated into a day for the community heroes and a day for the rest?

The first day would be the unsung heroes of our communities – the very people who deserve their moment in the limelight, because they have never sought it, and even feel rather embarrassed by it.

The likes of “Dolly” Newcombe BEM from Barton Turf, who has dedicated 30 years to serving and cajoling her community, and helping the villages to cement their identities and to thrive. Or Maureen Dougall, from Brundall, whose services include co-ordinating the luncheon club, taking older people on days out, giving a break to carers at a dementia support group, and helping youngsters with their homework.

Then there’s Wendy Maxwell from Hellesdon, who set up Chill 4 Us Carers and has helped 500 people who cannot afford them, to get computers.

Why should these shining lights be overshadowed by people whose rewards for success in their profession are money and adulation? People who do not need the gongs in order to get the glory.

And why should they sit on a long list of names, rubbing shoulders with scores of civil servants, whose jobs by their very nature are to serve, and who are handsomely remunerated for their “trouble”?

Our community heroes also should not have to be lumped in with those rewarded for “services to politics” – ie working for the political party which is in power at the time of the honours – or chief executives of oil firms, academy chains and banks.

And when I see Dolly Newcombe, Maureen Dougall and Wendy Maxwell listed with people honoured for services to dance, sculpture, drama or photography, it makes me cringe.

There has been much publicity in recent years about “cash for honours”, which has had a debilitating effect on the public’s faith in the honours system.

Much has been done to lift that curse.

But, in order to have a system that we can all admire and believe in, it should be about celebrating unsung heroes.

•What do you think? You can leave your comments below.

•The opinions above are those of Steve Downes.


  • They should do away with the honours completely. What has the world come to when we are honouring a woman who was a gangsters moll, who admits to having had 5 abortions and is most famous for baring her breasts in Carry On films. What about Sir Rolf Harris, Sir Stuart Hall and the worst of the lot Sir Jimmy Savile?

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    Tuesday, January 5, 2016

  • at last someone else who is of the same mind as myself the new years honours are becoming a joke making an mp a knight just for a job heshe went into was not pushed into the same with actors it was a chosen path for most and got paid well in some cases why a athelete gets a medal for winning a medal in the Olympics beats me once again that was their chosen path and gets a lot of funding on the way the real heros are the ones who help people or places with no payment or very little also our emergency services who risk life and limb sometimes for no mention or praise so I think it is time to look at people who deserve the honours and not people who get overpaid to do a job they chose

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    i am mostly wrong??

    Tuesday, January 5, 2016

  • It appears that the PM's office awards 'Honours' that are much more to do with currying favours than it is for recognising ordinary people for the work they do to help others. It is high time this was all changed - otherwise they are meaningless.

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    kenneth jessett

    Tuesday, January 5, 2016

  • For example...Daily Telegraph comments on Lin Homer made a Dame in New Years Honours... 2002 Lin Homer is Birmingham City Council's chief executive on a £174,000 salary. While returning officer in 2004, she is criticised by the Electoral Commission for her failings during a major postal vote-rigging scandal. She later resigned. 2005 Joins the Home Office to run the Immigration and Nationality Directorate on a £200,000-a-year wage. The following year, some 1,000 foreign criminals are mistakenly released under Ms Homer's watch leading to the resignation of home secretary Charles Clarke. 2008 Ms Homer is appointed as head of the UK Border Agency. Hundreds of foreign prisoners and more than 100,000 asylum seekers are told they could stay in Britain under her tenure. 2009 Appointed as Permanent Secretary to Department for Transport. In this role she oversaw the failed franchise letting process of the West Coast Mainline network, which cost taxpayers £100million. She was among officials criticised by Sir Richard Branson, head of Virgin Trains, for ignoring concerns about the process. 2011 She is appointed chief executive of HMRC. A year later HMRC is criticised for "woefully inadequate" response to a National Audit Office report concerning its poor customer services. In 2013, HMRC admits it made a £1.9 billion error that saw officials overstating the amount of extra revenue they were collecting. The following year Ms Homer said she “deserved” a bonus worth up to £20,000. In 2015, HMRC is criticised for failing to clampdown on £16bn of complex tax evasion and organised criminal activity. It also fails to make a single prosecution of a tax cheat after it emerged hundreds of British customers used HSBC's Swiss bank to evade tax

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • Physician heal thyself. It is journalists obsessed by "celebrity culture" who give distorted coverage to the already famous and leave the deserving unsung heroes with what little space remains.

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    Old Hand

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • Most honours go to hardworking volunteers and people such as school crossing wardens or charity workers which is as it should be, we just get to hear more about the famous people who are awarded honours

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • this is why if a normal person gets a honour gets more respect than a person who just uses there £££££

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • Who is it that makes the nominations and who makes the decisions for who gets the awards? Isn't this a system that to a great extent reflects the culture of the age? The 'Celebrity' culture. It is a part of the public moved by media, and more and more 'social' media, who offer adulation to people who work in entertainment mostly because they are in and get pushed into the public consciousness - footballers hailed as heroes, actors lauded as if from other planets ... It's time for Man to get his priorities right. There are loads of 'ordinary' folk just doing their jobs AND being helpful to others ... and not craving attention. Congratulations to them.

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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