Councillor John Leech said the footballer has done more to raise awareness of the issue in the last six months ‘than any politician in the last 25 years.
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford should be considered as a candidate for receiving freedom of the city for his work highlighting child poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic, a councilor has said.
The 22-year-old from Wythenshawe has done more to raise awareness of the issue in the last six months ‘than any politician in the last 25 years’ according to Councilor John Leech.
Coun Leech, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on the council, suggested that the town hall should ensure that future recipients of the honour were as diverse as Manchester itself.
The proposal was put forward during a meeting where councilors agreed to award the freedom of Manchester to the 209th Battery of the Royal Artillery’s 103 Regiment.
Established in Manchester in 1804, the battery served in the Boer War and both world wars before becoming a reserve unit in peacetime.
While councillors voted unanimously to recognise the unit’s ‘service and sacrifice’ by awarding them freedom of Manchester, Coun Leech said there was a strong case for a wider discussion on who should be eligible for the honorary title.
He told the constitutional and nomination committee on Tuesday: “I wonder whether we ought to be looking to better reflect the diversity of the city, and whether or not there are people from other backgrounds who ought to be recognised for their contributions to the city.
“For example one of those people that have been mentioned in recent months has been Marcus Rashford.
“Despite being a [Manchester] City fan, I think Marcus Rashford has probably done more to highlight and raise the issue of child poverty in the last six months than any politician has managed in the last 25 years.”
Rashford has recently launched a new campaign to secure funding from the government to extend the provision of free meals into the school holidays.
He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Honour’s list for his efforts earlier this year.
The England international has also used his Twitter account as a platform for businesses, groups and individuals from across the UK who have volunteered to provide meals for children and families in need.
Councillor John Flanagan said the town hall’s Labour group was already ‘looking closely’ at Rashford’s achievements but said it was ‘unfair’ to discuss an individual at a public meeting.
He added: “I think if you look at the wall of the freedom of the city of Manchester there is a whole range of diversity of people from different backgrounds across the Commonwealth.
“But we should always be mindful, and there’s a lot of talk in the Labour group about recognising the exceptional work that Marcus, a young Wythenshawe lad, has done.”
The names of every honorary freeman are inscribed on a wall in the anteroom of the council chamber at Manchester town hall.
Rashford would be the fourth person associated with Manchester United to receive the honour after Sir Matt Busby, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson.
The freedom of the city was last handed out in 2013 to University of Manchester professors Sir Konstantin Novoselov and Sir Andre Geim.
Since then the council has introduced the City of Manchester Award as a new way of recognizing an individual’s ‘outstanding and exceptional contributions’ to Manchester.