Friday, 27 January 2006

County Confusion

Posted by Chris

Though many people are unaware of the fact, it is a fact that the Ridings of Yorkshire were not abolished by local government changes. Neither the Parliamentary Act of 1974 nor 1992 had any effect on them. Governments, legal experts and many other reputable bodies all agree. This is not an accident. Parliament has repeatedly decided over the last two centuries to separate local government and the traditional counties.

The counties developed in different ways in different parts of Britain. The Ridings of Yorkshire are amongst the earliest. The first recorded reference to the Ridings appears in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles of 876, nine years after the Viking conquest of the area. But some parts of the boundaries can be traced to 735 and may go back to Roman times. Riding is probably derived from a Norse word meaning a third part. It may come from an Old English origin meaning a thirding. Actually, Yorkshire has four parts since the ancient City of York (within the walls) is in no Riding.

There is much confusion about the status of Counties. This never need happen if you accept the truth that the North Riding still exists because it was never abolished. It would not happen if people understood the statements made by Government every time local government re-organisation has taken place.

“These changes are for local government purposes only. For all other purposes Yorkshire is still Yorkshire.” This statement has been repeated often by ministers of both Conservative and Labour Governments.

Then there was the statement by John Major in 1992: “This re-organisation of local government is an opportunity for people to reclaim the Ridings of Yorkshire.”

Much of the confusion is caused by vested interests:

The press and media are the worst offenders. Our local paper, the Evening Gazette, uses the word Teesside at the start of virtually every local article nowadays. In fact up to the 1960’s, if you read back copies, the word was used rarely and was spelt with a hyphen. They use Teesside as a catchword, to encourage people to read an article. It covers their readership area and they know if they put the name of the town instead, only those who live there are interested.

Businesses and local groups take the names of Local Government areas for some reason and stick to them when they have been changed. This adds to the confusion. Since 1967 we have had local government under the following names in Redcar - North Riding County Council, Teesside County Borough, Cleveland County Council, Langbaurgh Borough Council, Langbaurgh on Tees Borough Council and now Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council. Companies and organisations have been named after them all and they often don't bother to change when local government is re-organised. For example we still have Cleveland Police, Langbaurgh Division even though both local government areas were officially abolished in 1996.

By using Yorkshire to describe where you live and the name of your town it identifies clearly where you live. Local government can be reorganised as often as you wish and you still retain your identity.

Regional Government, if it ever materialises, is very likely to result in the abolition of administrative counties and their replacement with unitiaries, like in this area. Where would cricket be if it was accepted that we no longer had any counties?

The answer is to accept that England’s 39 geographic counties should remain for all cultural, ceremonial, sporting and postal purposes. It is so simple and costs nothing. We get a stable geography, easily identified by clear, natural boundaries and forever afterwards if the bureaucrats at Whitehall decide that we need to alter local government boundaries nobody feels that they have lost their indenity. Real county boundaries can be shown on maps along with whatever local government boundaries exist at the time.

Redcar & Cleveland Council have recognised this and for the past three years it uses Yorkshire as part of its postal address. We have joined the Yorkshire Tourist Board and hold a Yorkshire Day Festival in Redcar, each year over the closest weekend to Yorkshire Day, which falls on 1st August.

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