MY thanks to Lords Caine and Lexden for their description of the unsatisfactory arrangements we have inherited in England’s geographic and administrative hierarchies, and to The Yorkshire Post for publishing Lord Caine’s article (September 23).
The Campaign for Historic Counties is right to argue for a separation between the geographic and the administrative hierarchies – and the blame for today’s disjointed arrangements belongs indeed to the short-sighted and, yes, vandalistic failure to grasp this in the early 1970s reorganisation.
The mistake was to press ahead, arrogantly, with drastic changes which affected some counties but not others.
I would love to read in The Yorkshire Post a long series of articles explaining the background.
Start with a list of what were seen as shortcomings of the local government structures around 1970 (excessive variation in population and size between different local authorities which were all county-based at that time).
Document the various competing proposals for addressing these shortcomings and chart the careers of some examples of authorities which came and went, such as Avon or West Midlands or Cleveland (but which live on as police areas or ex-EU “regions” in some cases).
“London” was enlarged in 1965 from the LCC area to the Greater London area, taking in the outer suburbs formerly administered by the “home” counties (absurd as that expression is) and yet at no point has there been a sign (brown or any colour) at any entrance to the territory with the words “Welcome to London”.
A better approach, five decades ago, would have been to leave things as they were pending a much deeper analysis.
One conclusion would have been to make historic counties geographic, marked by brown signs and distinct boundary marks on Ordnance Survey maps, whilst administrative authorities should all have been given new non-county names to avoid the confusion which has been bequeathed to us, made only worse by each subsequent bit of tinkering (don’t start me off on the subject of “combined authorities”, the latest chimera).
I’ve been affected twice by this: my native Skipton moved from the West Riding to North Yorkshire; and my adopted Beckenham moved from Kent into the London Borough of Bromley but most residents hereabouts still insist it is in Kent.
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