This announcement from Jake Berry MP, published in Sunday’s Telegraph, came as a surprise to the British Counties Campaign as we have been trying for a while to confirm his support for our campaign, especially as he’s already a patron of FORL and with our common aims he’d be a valuable ally to our cause. Hopefully soon we will count Jake as our 26th supporting MP.
Councils should fly county flags and put up signs to indicate where historic municipal boundaries lay to encourage families to find out more about their history, a Government minister has said.
Jake Berry, who describes himself as a “proud Lancastrian”, has ordered his civil servants in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to draft new guidance for English local authorities on promoting their traditional county links.
The Northern Powerhouse minister complained that the “English lion has been reduced to the Cheshire Cat by wet civic adherence to local government reorganisations”, adding “with Brexit just around the corner it’s time it’s time he roared again across England”.
The Government changed Whitehall rules to allow local and county flags to be flown without planning permission in 2012.
Then it issued planning guidance in 2014 allowing councils to put up traditional counties boundary signs.
But Mr Berry said not enough has been done and he is ordering fresh guidance to assist councils in how they can “boost community pride and tourism”.
He told The Telegraph: “For years, town hall bureaucrats have been obsessed with modern metropolitan boroughs that divorce people from their historic birthright and created meaningless agglomerations like Humberside.
“Our historic counties are at the heart of communities and are part of the fabric of British society that has been woven into our national story since Saxon times.
“The English lion has been reduced to the Cheshire Cat by wet civic adherence to local government reorganisations.
“But with Brexit just around the corner it’s time it’s time he roared again across England.”
The British Counties Campaign, launched in 2017 to push for legislation to change the law to bring back traditional county names, welcomed the minister’s initiative.
The campaign’s proposed law decrees that the description “county” can only apply to the historic 92 counties of the UK. Newly created local authorities would be called simply “council areas”.
It says that historic country titles “must be re-established as the standard geographical frame of reference in Britain and used for cultural, social, sporting and tourism purposes, among others”.
Pam Moorhouse, one of the campaigners, said: “We were brutally forced into new areas 45 years ago. Millions of young people haven’t heard of the traditional counties because the councils only promote the new areas.
“All you get is Merseyside, Cumbria and North East Lincs, as if they’ve always existed. Councils should be made to promote the old counties on maps, signs and addresses.”
Gerard Dugdill, the campaign’s manager, added “Legislation is the only way to save our counties.
“This can go hand-in-hand with Brexit or no, but now might be the time for a national renaissance of our culture, history and identity, saving our precious counties as part of that.”
A spokesman for the County Councils Network, which represents all 27 English county councils and 10 unitary authority councils, said it welcomed the Government’s promotion of the “significance of counties, both economically and socially”.
He said: “County councils are proud to be an essential part of England’s history and that they continue to be integral to many people’s identity.
“The historic identity of our counties forms a key part county councils’ extensive work to promote their areas as great places to visit, live and work.”
But he added that it was important ministers recognise that existing county boundaries help county councils to deliver efficient local services, such as transport and highways, and promoting local growth.
He said: “County councils should retain local discretion over how they use their historic identity to ensure that their 26 million residents remain clear about who is providing the services they use on a day to day basis.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents all councils in England and Wales, added: “Councils take their civic duty extremely seriously and make every effort to promote pride in their communities.”
A YouGov survey in April found that 45 per cent of people used historic county names in their postal addresses despite the fact that many have been replaced by modern administrative districts.