Councils should do more to promote ‘county days’ and historic boundaries says Government minister Jake Berry
Historic county day celebrations should be revived to boost community pride, according to new Government guidance for councils.
Local authorities should also look to fly their county flags and erect signs which show where historic county boundaries lie.
The new eight page guidance is designed to encourage communities to boost community pride and help families to learn about local traditions.
In 2012 the Government changed Whitehall rules to allow local and county flags to be flown without planning permission.
Local authorities have been able erect historic county boundary signs since 2016.
But currently more than half of councils do not have county days to celebrate and not all local authorities have county flags to fly.
Of the 28 official county days, some are for areas that do not officially exist any more – Cumberland (September 28) and Westmorland (September 29) were both subsumed into Cumbria in a local government shake-up in 1974.
Yorkshire Day on August 1 was started as part of a protest movement against those local government reforms that came into force in 1974. The county also has three other days – more for the East, North and West Ridings.
The “Yorkshire Declaration of Integrity” is traditionally read in York and states states that “any person or corporate body which deliberately ignores or denies the aforementioned shall forfeit all claim to Yorkshire status”.
Last year’s Yorkshire Day was marked with a civic parade in Ripon, followed by a picnic, barbecue, a special “hornblowing ceremony” and fireworks.
Lancashire Day on November 27 is marked by town criers throughout the county reading out the Lancashire Day proclamation which marks “the peoples’ pleasure in that excellent distinction – true Lancastrians, proud of the Red Rose”.
Jake Berry, a Local Government minister, said he wanted counties to present new ideas to help people mark their county days.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “As a proud Lancastrian I’m a strong believer in the great historic county of Lancashire’s motto: ‘In counsel is wisdom’.
“That’s why I have asked local authorities to come forward with new and creative ideas to help their communities come together to celebrate historic counties, their shared history and our great nation.
“As England prepares to proudly play its part in a strong and prosperous UK outside of the EU, there has never been a better time to recognise the historic counties as an asset to create a sense of community, boost tourism and economic growth.”
The Government guidance says: “Historic counties are an important element of English traditions which support the identity and cultures of many of our local communities, giving people a sense of belonging, pride and community spirit.
“They continue to play an important part in the country’s sporting and cultural life as well as providing a reference point for local tourism and heritage. We should all seek to strengthen the role that they can play.”
It adds: “The celebration of the historic counties can equally deliver real benefits for communities in terms of economic development and tourism, providing an important opportunity to make our rich past contribute to a bright future.
“Understanding the past and how we have developed helps us to face the future with confidence and as a shared experience.
“The tapestry of England’s historic counties is one of the bonds that draws our nation together.”
The British Counties Campaign was launched in 2017 to push for legislation to change the law to bring back traditional county names.
Its proposed law would see the word “county” would only apply to the historic 92 counties of the UK. More modern local authority areas would be called simply “council areas”.
Pam Moorhouse, 72, founder of the British Counties Campaign, said: “It’s wonderful but the trouble is millions of young people and visitors are completely unaware of the traditional counties.”
She added: ”Councils won’t put signs up, because they say it would confuse people. Of course it doesn’t, it’s the councils that are confusing people.”
Official county days
Bedfordshire Day – 28 November
Buckinghamshire – 28 July
Cornwall – 5 March
County Durham – 20 March
Cumberland – 24 September
Devon – 4 June
Derbyshire – 22 September
Dorset – 1 June
Essex – 26 October
Hampshire – 15 July
Huntingdonshire – 25 April
Kent – 26 May
Lancashire – 27 November
Lincolnshire – 1 October
Middlesex – 16 May
Norfolk – 27 July
Northamptonshire – 25 October
Northumberland – 26 May
Rutland – 13 September
Somerset – 11 May
Staffordshire – 1 May
Suffolk Day – 21 June
Sussex – 16 June
Westmorland – 29 September
Wiltshire – 5 June
Yorkshire – 1 August
Yorkshire – East Riding – 24 August
Yorkshire – North Riding – 22 August
Yorkshire – West Riding – 29 March
This article by Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent at The Telegraph was published on Sunday 21st April 2019.