Regions of England
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|Regions of England|
Creation of some form of provinces or regions for England has been an intermittent theme of post-Second World War British governments. The Redcliffe-Maud Report proposed the creation of eight provinces in England, which would see power devolved from central government. Edward Heath's administration in the 1970s did not create a regional structure in the Local Government Act 1972, waiting for the Royal Commission on the Constitution, after which government efforts were concentrated on a constitutional settlement in Scotland and Wales for the rest of the decade. In England, the majority of the Commission "suggest[ed] regional coordinating and advisory councils for England, consisting largely of indirectly elected representatives of local authorities and operating along the lines of the Welsh advisory council". One-fifth of the advisory councils would be nominees from central government. The boundaries suggested were the "eight now [in 1973] existing for economic planning purposes, modified to make boundaries to conform with the new county structure". <ref>Whitehall powers would go to Scotland, Wales and regions, but no full self-government. The Times. Novemer 1, 1973.</ref> <ref>More freedom for Scots, Welsh in proposals to region regions. The Times. November 1, 1973.</ref> A minority report by Lord Crowther-Hunt and Alan Peacock suggested instead seven regional assemblies and governments within Great Britain (five within England), which would take over substantial amounts of the central government. <ref>Dissenters urge plan for seven assemblies. The Times. November 1, 1973.</ref>
In April 1994 the John Major government created a set of ten Government Office Regions for England. Prior to 1994, although various central government departments had different regional offices, the regions they used tended to be different and ad hoc. The stated purposes was as a way of co-ordinating the various regional offices more effectively : they initially involved the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Employment, Department of Transport and the Department for the Environment.<ref>Devolution and British Politics. Chapter 10. English regional government : Christopher Stevens</ref>
Also, the Maastricht Treaty encouraged the creation of regional boundaries for selection of members for the Council of Regions: Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had each constituted a region, but England represents such a large proportion of the population of the United Kingdom that further division was thought necessary.
The English regions, which initially numbered ten, have since also replaced the Standard Stastical Regions. Merseyside originally constituted a region in itself. In 1998 it was merged into the North West England region; creating the nine present-day regions. <ref>National Statistics - Beginners' guide to UK geography</ref>
 Powers and functions
In 1998, regional assemblies were created in each English region. The powers of the assemblies are limited and, outside London, they are not directly elected. The functions of the English regions are essentially devolved to them from Government departments or have been taken over from pre-existing regional bodies, such as regional planning conferences and regional employers' organisations.
Each region has a Government Office (with responsibilty for industry, employment, training, agriculture, tranport and the environment) <ref>Parry, R., Social Policy in the United Kingdom</ref> and associated institutions, including a Regional Development Agency. As there are no regional elections, outside London, local representatives on regional assemblies are nominated by the councils within each region and 30% of members represent regional stakeholders.
Since 1999, the nine regions have also been used as England's European Parliament constituencies <ref>United Kingdom Election Results</ref> and as statistical NUTS level 1 regions. Since 1 July 2006, there have been ten NHS Strategic Health Authorities, each of which corresponds to a region, except for South East England, which is divided into western and eastern parts.
Each regional assembly makes proposals for the UK members of the Committee of the Regions, with members drawn from the elected councillors of the local authorities in the region. The final nominations are made by central government. <ref>Committee of the Regions - Appointing the UK delegation</ref>
The regions are to be used for fire brigade co-ordination in the future, with one headquarters for each region. <ref>BBC News - Region gets fire control shake-up</ref> Ofcom has tentatively proposed a telephone numbering plan with a wide area code (020, 021, 022 etc.) used for each government office region. <ref>Scotsman - Number's up for 0131</ref> <ref>OFCOM - Wide area code planning (DOC)</ref>
 Elected assemblies
As power was to be devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales without a counterweight in England, a series of referendums were planned to establish elected regional assemblies in some of the regions. The first was held in London in 1998 and was successfully passed. The London Assembly and Mayor of London of the Greater London Authority were created in 2000. A referendum was held in North East England on 4 November 2004 but the proposal for an elected assembly was rejected. Plans to hold further referendums in other regions were then cancelled, but the eight unelected regional assemblies remain in place.
 Sub divisions
Local government in England does not follow a uniform structure. Therefore each region is divided into a range of further sub divisions. London is divided into London boroughs while the other regions are divided into metropolitan counties, shire counties and unitary authorities. Counties are further divided into districts and some areas are also parished. Regions are also divided into sub-regions which usually group socio-economically linked local authorities together. However, the sub-regions have no official status and are little-used other than for strategic planning purposes.
There is opposition to an increased role for the regions and of the introduction of further elected regional assemblies. The Conservative Party's current policies do not include further regionalisation.
Criticisms range from claims that regions remove powers from other levels of local government or that as regions of the EU they are unsuited to English needs for local governance. The geographical scope of the regions has also been criticised with claims that places too socio-economically diverse are contained within the same region and regional boundaries have been set without consultation.
 See also
- Historical and alternative regions of England
- List of articles about local government in the United Kingdom
 External links
- Boundary committee for England
- Boundary committee's map
- Regional Gateway
- Government Offices for the English Regions
- English Regions Network (English regional assemblies)
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