GCHQ given a de­served ac­co­lade

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Coun­cil­lor Steve Jor­dan Leader, Chel­tenham Bor­ough Coun­cil

LAST week, GCHQ was awarded the Free­dom of the Bor­ough of Chel­tenham. This honour recog­nises in­di­vid­u­als or or­gan­i­sa­tions that have ren­dered “em­i­nent ser­vices’ to the local area.

GCHQ (orig­i­nally Gov­ern­ment Code and Cypher School) was founded on Novem­ber 1, 1919 and so is cel­e­brat­ing its cen­te­nary this year.

For the last 68 years GCHQ has been based in Chel­tenham. As the largest em­ploy­ers in the area GCHQ, both as an or­gan­i­sa­tion and through its staff and their fam­i­lies have over gen­er­a­tions made a big con­tri­bu­tion to what makes Chel­tenham the place it is.

In fi­nan­cial terms, it brings in hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds to the local econ­omy each year sup­port­ing busi­nesses that wouldn’t oth­er­wise ex­ist.

But it’s much more than that as there are also many com­mu­nity and vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions that ben­e­fit from the time and abil­i­ties of GCHQ staff.

His­tor­i­cally the free­dom awarded to mil­i­tary units gave them the right to pa­rade with “drums beat­ing, colours flying, and bay­o­nets fixed”.

I know that pre­vi­ous re­cip­i­ents such as the Glouces­ter­shire Reg­i­ment have taken up that op­tion but I sus­pect GCHQ won’t be!

A spe­cial meet­ing of the coun­cil can award the free­dom pro­vided two thirds of the coun­cil members vote in favour.

I’m pleased to say that when I made the pro­posal to the spe­cial coun­cil on May 13 it had unan­i­mous sup­port from coun­cil­lors, which was just as well since the award was ac­tu­ally made to GCHQ Direc­tor Jeremy Flem­ing at the Town Hall later the same day.

But an in­for­mal process had been go­ing on for a year or so be­fore then as the last thing you would want is to em­bar­rass the po­ten­tial re­cip­i­ent by hav­ing any se­ri­ous op­po­si­tion.

When the idea was first dis­cussed there were ‘”in­for­mal sound­ings” within the coun­cil which showed ev­ery­one was in favour.

Then GCHQ were ap­proached to check they would ac­cept it. This fi­nally led to what I think is the well-de­served free­dom award last week.

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