Regions of England

Regions of England

Infobox subdivision type
name= Region (England)
alt_name= Government office region

category= Regions
territory= England
start_date= 1994

current_number= 9
number_date= 2008

type= appointed assembly (8)
type1= elected assembly (1)
exofficio= European Parliament constituency

population_range= 2.5–8 million
area_range= 1,000–23,000 km²

government= Regional assemblies
government1= Development agency
government2= Greater London Authority

subdivision= Metropolitan county
subdivision1= Non-metropolitan county
subdivision2= City and London borough
The region, also known as the government office region, is currently the highest tier of local government sub-national entity of England, with only one, London, having a directly elected assembly.


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 Ireland, and as a consequence calls were made for similar structures to be introduced in Great Britain 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. ["Local Parliaments For England. Mr. Churchill's Outline Of A Federal System, Ten Or Twelve Legislatures", The Times, September 13, 1912, p.4] [ [ G. K. Peatling, "Home Rule for England, English Nationalism, and Edwardian Debates about Constitutional Reform" in "Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies", Vol. 35, No. 1. (Spring, 2003), pp.71-90, accessed December 16, 2007] ] While the creation of regional parliaments never became official policy, it was for a while widely anticipated and various schemes for dividing England devised. [In 1917 the Royal Geographical Society debated a paper by C.B. Fawcett that detailed 12 provinces he considered to be the "natural divisions of England". Detailed boundaries were proposed with regional capitals designated on the basis of the possession of universities or university colleges. [ C. B. Fawcett, "Natural Divisions of England" in "The Geographical Journal", Vol. 49, No. 2. (Feb., 1917), pp. 124-135, accessed November 28, 2007] ] [In 1919 Fawcett expanded his paper into a book entitled the "Provinces of England", and a similar system of regions was proposed by G.D.H. Cole in "The Future of Local Government" in 1921. In 1920 the Ministry of Health published its own proposals for 15 provinces, subdivided into 59 regions [ E. W. Gilbert, "Practical Regionalism in England and Wales" in "The Geographical Journal", Vol. 94, No. 1. (Jul., 1939), pp. 29-44. Accessed November 28, 2007] ]

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. [ [ E. W. Gilbert, "Practical Regionalism in England and Wales" in "The Geographical Journal", Vol. 94, No. 1. (Jul., 1939), pp. 29-44. Accessed November 28, 2007] ]

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". [Whitehall powers would go to Scotland, Wales and regions, but no full self-government. The Times. November 1, 1973.] [More freedom for Scots, Welsh in proposals to region regions. The Times. November 1, 1973.] 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. [Dissenters urge plan for seven assemblies. The Times. November 1, 1973.]

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 Transport and the Department for the Environment. ["Devolution and British Politics. Chapter 10. English regional government" : Christopher Stevens]

Also, the Maastricht Treaty encouraged the creation of regional boundaries for selection of members for the Committee of the Regions of the European Union: 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.

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. [ [ National Statistics] - Beginners' guide to UK geography]

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. [ [ HM Treasury Press Release 79/07] - 17th July, 2007]

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


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.

Each region has a Government Office (with some responsibility for industry, employment, training, agriculture, transport and the environment) [Parry, R., "Social Policy in the United Kingdom"] 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 [ [ United Kingdom Election Results] ] and as statistical 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. [ [ Committee of the Regions] - Appointing the UK delegation]


The regions are to be used for fire brigade co-ordination in the future, with one headquarters for each region. [ [ BBC News] - Region gets fire control shake-up] Ofcom has tentatively proposed a telephone numbering plan with a "wide area code" (020, 021, 022 etc.) used for each government office region. [ [ OFCOM] - Wide area code planning (DOC)]

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 authorities. [eGov monitor - " [ Planning transfer undermines democracy] ". 29 November 2007]


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

# East Midlands
# East of England
# London
# North East
# North West
# South East
# South West
# West Midlands
# Yorkshire and the Humber


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.

Alternative proposals range from retaining the current structure, replacement with city regions or providing an elected body for the whole of England.

ee also

*Historical and alternative regions of England
*List of articles about local government in the United Kingdom
*Rule of the Major-Generals (1655) and their ten regions


External links

*fr icon [ List of United Kingdom regions rulers]
* [ Boundary committee for England]
* [ Boundary committee's map]
* [ Dept of Communities and Local Government - Regional Gateway]
* [ Government Offices for the English Regions]
* [ Government Office for the North West]
* [ English Regions Network (English regional assemblies)]

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