A LIFELONG Tory had his doubts about the honours system allayed when he received his CBE and saw the delighted reaction of his fellow recipients.

City councillor Steve Bell collected his Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

The Brighton and Hove City Councillor said he has not always been 100 per cent convinced by the honours system until seeing how much it meant to recipients from all walks of life.

The 61-year-old received his honour for political service at the same ceremony as former Chancellor George Osborne, Citizen Kahn creator Adil Ray and former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis.

The honour was reward for the long service Cllr Bell has given to the Conservative Party after first declaring his allegiance as a 12-year-old much to the surprise of his socialist parents.

Cllr Bell has fulfilled senior posts within the party since 2006 including chairman of Sussex, regional chairman and vice President of the National Convention.

He learnt in May that he was to be recognised in David Cameron’s farewell honours list.

He said receiving the letter inviting him to accept the honour was a “complete bolt out of the blue” and he had to keep the news under his hat for four weeks before it was made public in June telling only his wife, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield.

Cllr Bell received the honour during a 90 minute ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Friday alongside 82 other recipients before enjoying a celebratory high tea with his wife, daughter and mother.

He told The Argus the day allowed him to truly appreciate the honours system in bringing people from all walks of life together.

He said: “People were being rewarded for the contributions from across the spectrum, it was quite a humbling experience.

“I know there is a lot of criticism of the honours system but I could see what it could do for people.

“I’ve not always been 100 per cent about it myself, but being there you can really see the benefits of what it meant to so many people.

“My greatest enjoyment on the day was watching the delight on the faces of others receiving their honours.”

Cllr Bell received his CBE from Prince William, one of the few royals he had yet to meet.

He said: “I was quite surprised by how much he knew about me.

“One question he asked was why when I finished with the army did I get involved in politics and I said I did it was because I believe we are here to serve, because I believe in giving and serving people.”