THE latest New Year Honours Awards have prompted the usual collection of applause and abuse in response.

People really do have very definite feelings about these awards and awards in general. But, I really believe awards are very useful. You may not agree with Twiggy becoming a Dame, Michael Palin being knighted or even England football manager Gareth Southgate getting an OBE but there is a purpose to the system.

Honouring achievement – whether that’s for services to a national industry or a local charity – in Honours’ Lists elevates the individual or organisation concerned. It says “well done” in an official way and also thanks them for their hard work and dedication.

The same is true of film, TV and stage awards and there will be even greater levels of disagreement here. One man’s BAFTA is another man’s RUBBISH. It’s impossible to gauge true public reaction to a performance except by money handed over at the box-office or viewer ratings but at least all the finalists are there are thereabouts when it comes to winning. And if your favourite wins, then suddenly the system is surprisingly accurate.

Business awards can be particularly valuable. Witness the annual Bolton Business Awards which highlight the real wealth of local companies, some of which few of us would have heard without these vital nominations.

The finalists all receive publicity - which improves their standing and profile in the community - and the winners can make much of this fact via PR and promotion. That way, everyone wins and the reputation boost is soon translated into increased orders and revenue.

There are still, though, many people who just don’t like the idea of awards because they feel they penalise the less able. They make the same argument about awards as they do about all competition, probably citing school sports’ days as another example of an unfair system.

Yet, without any form of competition striving to be better becomes obsolete. There is no benchmark to aim for, no goal in sight. Children definitely need encouragement to improve in life but if we reward everyone, the currency of rewards is totally devalued.

Perhaps we feel there are too many awards around these days. Every industry has its awards to offer incentives in their field to innovate and achieve. This is, however, a very successful way to raise industry standards and drive forward change and development.

And, frankly, if we can’t make awards to long-serving lollipop ladies, inspirational charity workers and caring medical staff who would not otherwise hit the headlines, then how else can we showcase their important work? How can we thank them, offer some kind of reward and even aspire to be like them if some awards’ system has not thrown up their name as deserving recognition?

There may be more awards today, more specialised awards, but this does not make them less important or less welcome. Just ask the recipients.