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The region, also known as the government office region, is currently the highest tier of sub-national government entity of Englandmarker, used by central Government for statistical purposes. One of the regions, Londonmarker, has a directly elected assembly. The other regions have regional assemblies, which have limited powers and functions devolved from Government departments, with members appointed by local government bodies.

History

In ancient times (the second half of the first millennium) the heptarchy divided England into territories roughly the same order of magnitude as modern regions. During Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate in the 1650s, the rule of the Major-Generals also created similarly-sized regions. See historical and alternative regions of England for details.

The division of England into a number of administrative regions was first considered by the British government shortly prior to the First World War. In 1912 the Third Home Rule Bill was passing through parliament. The Bill was expected to introduce a devolved parliament for Irelandmarker, and as a consequence calls were made for similar structures to be introduced in Great Britainmarker or "Home Rule All Round". On September 12 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, gave a speech in which he proposed 10 or 12 regional parliaments for the United Kingdom. Within England, he suggested that London, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands would make natural regions. While the creation of regional parliaments never became official policy, it was for a while widely anticipated and various schemes for dividing England devised.

By the 1930s several competing systems of regions were adopted by central government for such purposes as census of population, agriculture, electricity supply, civil defence and the regulation of road traffic.

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 Scotlandmarker and Walesmarker for the rest of the decade. In England, the majority of the Commission "suggested 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". 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.

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 purpose 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 Transportmarker and the Department for the Environmentmarker.

Also, the Maastricht Treaty encouraged the creation of regional boundaries for selection of members for the Committee of the Regions of the European Union: Walesmarker, Scotlandmarker and Northern Irelandmarker 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.

Following the Labour Party's victory in the 1997 general election, the government created Regional Development Agencies.

The English regions, which initially numbered ten, have since also replaced the Standard Statistical 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.

In 2007 a Treasury Review for new Prime Minister Gordon Brown recommended that greater powers should be given to local authorities and that the Regional Assemblies would be phased out of existence by 2010.

Also in 2007 nine new Regional Office Ministers were appointed by the new Gordon Brown government. Their primary goal is to improve communication between central government and the regions of England.

Powers and functions

Current

In 1998 regional assemblies were created for nine regions of England. 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. The assemblies are currently being run by a system of smaller Local Authority Leaders’ Boards. This process will be completed by April 2010.

Each region has a Government Office (with some responsibility for industry, employment, training, agriculture, transport and the environment) 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 Parliamentmarker constituencies 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.

Future

The regions are to be used for fire brigade co-ordination in the future, with one headquarters for each region. Ofcommarker has tentatively proposed a telephone numbering plan with a wide area code (020, 021, 022 etc.) used for each government office region.

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. The remaining eight regional assemblies are planned to be abolished in 2010 as part of a Sub-National Review of Economic Development and Regeneration with most of their functions transferring to the relevant Regional Development Agency and to Local Authority Leaders’ Boards.

Subdivisions

Local government in England does not follow a uniform structure. Therefore each region is divided into a range of further subdivisions. 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.

List of regions

  1. East Midlands
  2. East of England
  3. Greater Londonmarker
  4. North East England
  5. North West England
  6. South East England
  7. South West England
  8. West Midlands
  9. Yorkshire and the Humber


See also



References



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