How Hull can reclaim its Yorkshireness and integrate better with the rest of the region - Stewart Arnold

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the Local Government Act which saw huge changes to the way local government was organised in Yorkshire. Such was the scale of the reorganisation that many saw this as a not-so-subtle way for London-based pen pushers to ‘abolish the county’ altogether.

Parts of the county were hived off to neighbours Durham, Cumbria, to the newly created county of Cleveland and, most shockingly for many, also to Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Perhaps the most controversial element of the entire reorganisation was the creation of an administrative area to be called ‘Humberside’ which took in most of the traditional East Riding, Hull and parts of Lincolnshire including Scunthorpe and Grimsby. East Yorkshire as a separate county was kicked around for a time as a nod to centuries old history but to no avail and Humberside was born.

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Such was the loathing that from the off the abolishment of Humberside was sought. One local councillor remarked at the time that the campaign to get rid of Humberside started the day it came into effect as new place signs were torn up and ‘lost’ into the waterways and undergrowth of the area.

Hull KR's Danny McGuire during a Super League match at Belle Vue, Wakefield. PIC: PAHull KR's Danny McGuire during a Super League match at Belle Vue, Wakefield. PIC: PA
Hull KR's Danny McGuire during a Super League match at Belle Vue, Wakefield. PIC: PA

Although the abolition of Humberside County Council was never inevitable, this vigorous campaign through the 70s and 80s led to its final demise in 1996.

All this might have been seen as a victory for those advocates of an undivided Yorkshire but that hasn’t quite happened. For one thing, Humberside still lingers on in the designations of the local BBC radio station, the police force and the airport. Even the official name for the region is ‘Yorkshire and the Humber’ for although the appellation ‘Humberside’ has been eradicated, the region continues its extension over the estuary into northern Lincolnshire.

There is also a whole generation of people who were born in a place that administratively had no Yorkshire connection. For example, there are now two versions of the BBC’s regional news programme ‘Look North’: one broadcast from Leeds and the other from Hull. It means that the Hull version has news not only from that corner of Yorkshire but also from Lincolnshire all the way down to the outer reaches of Norfolk but it does not cover the rest of Yorkshire.

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Viewers in Hull know more about football in Boston than they do about rugby league in the rest of the county. And this conundrum works both ways. Does Hull feel part of Yorkshire to those in the rest of the county? How much of the coverage of the huge derby between Hull KR and Hull FC is seen in the rest of Yorkshire. Anecdotally too, Hull during its time as the UK’s City of Culture, suffered from this detachment.

So how can we integrate Hull and the East Riding into Yorkshire better? A single regional news programme would certainly be a start and although a rebranding of those residual Humberside organisations could go some way to Yorkshire and Hull re-embracing each other, I am not one to advocate rebranding as any easy option. I know how long (and resource heavy) it can be to change a well-known and established brand. However, one thing would be to make sure Hull and the East Riding is integrated into those ‘big ticket’ Yorkshire events.

For many in Yorkshire, Hull and the East Riding sadly remains out of sight and out of mind. A One Yorkshire devolution settlement would help overcome this but until that materialises better integration at all levels needs to happen.

Stewart Arnold is a writer and campaigner for greater devolution to Yorkshire.

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