Councils have been ordered to fly the Union flag at town hall buildings on February 19 to mark Prince Andrew’s birthday – causing outrage.
The Duke of York, who is facing intense scrutiny over his relationship with paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, turns 60 this month.
Now, town halls have now received an email telling them to mark the occasion, despite the Queen cancelling her son’s formal celebration in November following his disastrous Newsnight interview.
The message was sent by civil servant Matt Stevenson — private secretary to Dame Melanie Dawes, 53, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
However, the move has been slammed by councils, with critics branding it ‘ridiculous’.
Prominent royals including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Edinburgh, are honoured with the flag on their birthdays every year.
Andrew stepped back from his royal duties last year following his TV interview amid claims that he forced Epstein’s sex slave Virginia Roberts, then 17, to have sex with him.
The Duke of York strongly denies the allegations.
The order to mark his birthday by flying the Union flag has caused fury.
Deputy Labour leadership candidate Ian Murray said: ‘This protocol has to be binned given the allegations against the Prince.’
MP Wes Streeting added: ‘This would be wholly inappropriate. It should be knocked on the head immediately.’
A council source told the Sun: ‘Making this gesture while there is a cloud hanging over the Duke is hugely insulting to Epstein’s victims and those wanting answers.’
Another insider added: ‘It seems ridiculous.
‘The Government doesn’t appear to be noticing what has happened recently, or factoring in the mood of the nation.’
It comes as a new witness claims she saw the Prince Andrew dancing with Virginia Roberts at Tramp nightclub because it was the same night she accidentally stood on the royal’s foot.
Lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents five women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein, revealed she has a sixth client who says she witnessed the Duke of York with Ms Roberts – now Ms Giuffre – dancing together in 2001.
Ms Giuffre claims she was trafficked by convicted sex offender Epstein and alleges Prince Andrew slept with her on three separate occasions, including when she was just 17.
Andrew, who strenuously denies the allegations, is facing calls to talk to the FBI and US prosecutors.
Ms Bloom told a press conference in New York that the girl stepped on Andrew’s foot by mistake while dancing next to him and a friend pointed out who he was.
She said: ‘She thought to herself ‘oh my God, I’m in the presence of a royal’. It was a very big moment to her. She says that she gawked at him because he was a prince.
‘After she was done staring at him for quite some time, she looked at who he was with and it was a very young girl about her age.
‘And in the photographs that she has seen since, she identifies that young woman, or girl, as Virginia Roberts.’