Local Government Commission for England (1958–1967)
The Local Government Commission for England was established by the
Local Government Act 1958to review the organisation of local government, and make "such proposals as are hereinafter authorised for effecting changes appearing to the Commissions desirable in the interests of effective and convenient local government". The Act also provided for a Local Government Commission for Wales.
The initial members of the commission were appointed by warrant dated
October 31, 1958. ["London Gazette", issue no.41540, November 4, 1958] The chairman was Sir Henry Drummond Hancock and the deputy chairman was Michael Edward Rowe. The other members of the commission were Ruth Burton Buckley, Bernard Donald Storey and Ernest William Woodhead. They were joined on January 14, 1959by Professor Ely Devons and on July 15, 1959by Robert Hughes Parry. ["London Gazette", issue no.41611, January 20, 1959] ["London Gazette", issue no.41771, July 21, 1959] On the death of Woodhead, Leslie Robert Missen was made a member. ["London Gazette", issue no.42620, March 13, 1962] The last member to be appointed was Professor Bryan Keith-Lucas on June 24, 1965. ["London Gazette", issue no.43702, July 2, 1965]
The Review process
The Commission carried out reviews of two types of areas: five Special Review Areas, covering the major conurbations outside London, and seven General Review Areas, covering regions comprising a number of administrative counties and
county boroughs. The Commission's remit did not extend to the Metropolitan Area which was under review by the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London.
February 10, 1966, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilsonannounced in the Commons the appointment of a Royal Commission to more radically review the structure of local government in England. ["Radical Review of Local Government". "The Times". February 11, 1966.]
The reviews were formally brought to an end in 1967 by the Local Government (Termination of Reviews) Act 1967, which dissolved the Commission. Most outstanding recommendations were abandoned by the government. ["Halt to local reorganization". "The Times".
May 4, 1967.] "How Local government Areas Stand Today", "The Times", February 12, 1966]
† An enquiry into the Commission recommendations was ordered to be held, commencing on
October 18, 1961.
‡ An enquiry into the Commission recommendations was ordered to be held, commencing on
March 23, 1964.
The North-Western GRA consisted of the administrative counties of
Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumberlandand Westmorland(except those areas in the Merseyside and South East Lancashire SRAs), and the county boroughs of Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Carlisle, Chester, Preston, St. Helens, Southport, Warringtonand Wigan. ["London Gazette". 22 June, 1965]
The Southern GRA consisted of the administrative counties of
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshireand Wiltshire, along with the county boroughs of Bournemouth, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading and Southampton. ["London Gazette", March 2, 1965]
No reviews were commenced for the administrative counties of
Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, East or West Sussex, or in the county boroughs of Brighton, Canterbury, Eastbourne, Hastingsor Southend-on-Sea. Parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey (including the county boroughs of East Ham, West Ham and Croydon) were included in the Metropolitan Area.
The Commission's recommendations
The commission's reports made a number of recommendations for the completed reviews. Only some of these were carried into effect.
West Midlands Special Review Area (Report No.1)
The special review area had been defined in Schedule 3 of the
Local Government Act 1958. It comprised the conurbation of Birmingham and the Black Country, and included six county boroughs, four non-county boroughs and ten urban districts in the administrative county of Staffordshire, three boroughs in Worcestershireand two boroughs and two rural parishes in Warwickshire.
The commission recommended the creation of five enlarged county boroughs in the Black Country, based on the existing county boroughs of
Dudley, Smethwick, Walsall, West Bromwichand Wolverhampton. Solihullwas also to be constituted a county borough, while Aldridgeand Brownhillsurban districts were to merge to form Aldridge-Brownhillsand a new non-county borough was to be formed from the borough of Stourbridge and the urban district of Amblecote. Draft proposals had Halesowenbecoming part of the Smethwick borough. ["Mergers of Midland Counties Proposed". "The Times". March 2, 1960.]
The recommendations were largely implemented in 1966, with Solihull becoming a county borough in 1964. The enlarged county borough based on Smethwick was named Warley.
West Midlands General Review Area (Report No.2)
The area consisted of the administrative counties of
Herefordshire, Salop (or Shropshire), Warwickshire, Staffordshireand Worcestershire(except the parts included in the West Midlands SRA), and the county boroughs of Burton upon Trent, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trentand Worcester. [Local government Commission for England: Report. number 2. West Midlands general review area at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9918.html] ]
The main changes implemented in the area were the realignment of the Staffordshire/Warwickshire county boundary in the Tamworth area, with the abolition of the
Tamworth Rural Districtand extension of the borough of Tamworthin 1965; the inclusion of a number of small urban districts and boroughs (which became rural boroughs) in rural districts in Shropshire in 1967; and the abolition of two small urban districts in Herefordshire in 1968.
East Midlands General Review Area (Report No.3)
The area consisted of the administrative counties of
Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Isle of Ely, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutlandand the Soke of Peterborough; and the county boroughs of Leicesterand Northampton.
The review area included some of the smallest (in both area and population) administrative counties in England. ["Outcry Grows Over Midland Counties", "The Times",
March 8, 1960.] Draft proposals were quite radical, as follows
Cambridgeshire, Isle of Ely, Huntingdonshireand the Soke of Peterboroughto unite and form a new county of Cambridgeshire
*to this would also be added the
Ketton Rural Districtfrom Rutland, Stamford from Kesteven in Lincolnshire, and Royston in Hertfordshire
*the remainder of Rutland - the
Oakham Rural District, Uppingham Rural Districtand Oakhamurban district - would be added to Leicestershire
Cambridgewould become a county borough
These proposals were greatly controversial (especially in Rutland, which put forth a counter-suggestions to add surrounding areas to Rutland instead from surrounding counties) and the final proposals were watered down somewhat ["New amalgamations proposed for small counties". "The Times."
August 2, 1961.]
Huntingdonshireand the Soke of Peterboroughto form Huntingdon and Peterborough, to which would be joined Thorney Rural Districtfrom the Isle of Ely
Cambridgeshireand Isle of Elyto form Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely(including Royston)
*the merger of
Leicestershireand Rutland, which was to form a single rural districtin a "county of Leicester and Rutland"
Extension of the two county boroughs of Leicester and Northampton was also recommended, and that the existing borough of Luton in Bedfordshire be constituted a county borough, but declined to recommend that Dunstable should be added to Luton. [Local Government Commission for England: report and proposals for the East Midlands general review area (report number 3) at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9920.html] ]
The proposal to merge Leicestershire and Rutland remained controversial, and an inquiry into objections made to this part of the report was held between
July 17and July 26, 1962. Objections were voiced by Rutland County Council, a number of district and parish councils in that county as well as local individuals and organisations. ["Report of the inquiry into objections to the proposal to amalgamate Leicestershire and Rutland, and to the recommendations that the present county of Rutland (subject to minor boundary adjustment) should form a single rural district" at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9920.html] ] In August 1963 it was announced that the merger would not go ahead. ["New Amalgamations Proposed For Small Counties", "The Times", August 6, 1961.]
The other two mergers of administrative counties did take place, with the creation of new administrative counties of
Huntingdon and Peterboroughand Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely(excluding Royston) in 1965. A larger non-metropolitan county of Cambridgeshire, covering all four administrative counties, would be formed in 1974.
outh Western General Review Area (Report No.4)
The area consisted of the administrative counties of
Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershireand Somerset; the Isles of Scilly; and the county boroughs of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Gloucesterand Plymouth.
The Commission's proposals included the creation of two new county boroughs: one based on the existing borough of
Cheltenhamin Gloucestershire (also including Charlton Kingsurban district), the other to be formed from the areas of the borough of Torquay, the urban districts of Brixhamand Paignton, and parts of Newton Abbot and Totnes rural districts in Devon. Extensions were also recommended for the existing county boroughs of Bristol, Gloucester, Bath and Exeter, and alterations were proposed for the Gloucestershire/Somerset Devon/Cornwall county boundaries. [Local Government Commission for England: report and proposals for the South Western general review area (report number 4) at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9922.html] ] The draft proposals had not recommended the creation of these county boroughs.
Of the two proposed county boroughs, only the Devon one was formed, as
Torbay, in 1967. None of the extensions of existing county boroughs was made, and no alteration in the boundary between Gloucestershire and Somerset was made. The county boundary between Devon and Cornwall was realigned by the abolition of Broadwoodwidger Rural Districtin 1966.
A number of small urban districts and boroughs were merged into rural districts in Devon in 1967 and Cornwall in 1968, under reviews made by the two county councils.
The final proposals also proposed transferring
Lyme Regisfrom Dorset to Devon (with the backing of the local council which made a "unanimous decision" to seek the transfer). Ambitions of Wiltshire on Fromeand Dorset on Yeovilwere rejected. ["Somerset Unlikely to Lose Towns". "The Times". July 5, 1961] [Letter to the Editor, by Ralph Oliver, Mayor of Lyme Regis, December 27, 1961] ["County borough status advised for Cheltenham and Torbay". "The Times". February 3, 1963]
Tyneside Special Review Area (Report No.5)
The Tyneside SRA had been defined in the 1958 Act, and consisted of the
The commission recommended in 1963 the creation of a new County of Tyneside, divided into four boroughs. There was to be a redistribution of services between the county and borough tiers. [Local Government Commission for England: report and proposals for the Tyneside special review area (report number 5) at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9924.html] ] ["Tyneside Hearing Opens". "The Times".
July 25, 1962.] The final proposal was published on July 16, 1963, and proposed a Tyneside county roughly as follows :- ["Tyne Plan "Already Obsolete". "The Times". July 17, 1963]
Newcastle upon Tyne, Gosforth, Newburn, part of Ward Rural District
Tynemouth, Wallsend, Whitley Bay, part of Longbenton
Gateshead, Felling, Whiskham, Blaydon, Ryton
South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn, Boldon
Following a number of objections, an inquiry was held into the proposals in 1964. Newcastle City Council wanted a single
county borough, whilst the other county borough councils wished to see an area of contiguous county boroughs. ["Tyneside Boundary Decision Soon". "The Times". October 12, 1965.] The decision was put to the Minister in late 1965.
December 14, 1965, the Minster, Tony Crossman, proposed a large single county boroughof Tyneside, which would have had a population of 900,000, making it the second largest in England after Birmingham. ["More Groups of Towns". "The Times". December 15, 1965.] He wrote to authorities asking for comments ahead of a public inquiry in March. ["Minister wants all-purpose borough for Tyneside". "The Times". December 15, 1965]
March 3, 1966, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, being "of the opinion that the proposals of the Commission ... are not apt for the purpose of securing effective and local government in the area" formally rejected the commission's scheme, and substituted his own proposal. ["London Gazette", March 8, 1966]
The county borough was not formed, and local government in the area remained unchanged until the Local Government Act 1972 included Tyneside in the
metropolitan countyof Tyne and Wear, along with Sunderlandfrom Wearside.
North Eastern General Review Area (Report No.6)
The area consisted of the administrative county of
North Riding of Yorkshireand those parts of the counties of Durham and Northumberlandnot part of the Tyneside special review area; and the county boroughs of Darlington, Middlesbrough, Sunderlandand West Hartlepool.
The Commission's proposals included the creation of a new county borough of
Teessideincluding Middlesbrough and other adjacent boroughs and urban districts, the merger of the county borough of West Hartlepool with the non-county borough of Hartlepooland part of Stockton Rural District, and the extension of the areas of Sunderland and Darlington county boroughs. [Local Government Commission for England: report and proposals for the North Eastern general review area (report number 6) at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9926.html] ]
The proposals were carried out in 1967.
West Yorkshire Special Review Area (Report No.7)
The West Yorkshire SRA had been defined in the 1958 Act, covering the western industrialised part of the
West Riding of Yorkshire. The commission proposed the enlargement of the county boroughs of Bradfordand Leeds, the amalgamation of a number of county districts to form three new districts, and the creation of a new non-county borough. [Local Government Commission for England: report and proposals for the West Yorkshire special review area (report number 7) at BOPCRIS website [http://www.bopcris.ac.uk/bopall/ref9928.html] ] ["Heavy Woollen Area Plan", "The Times", July 19, 1962] ["Wakefield angered by plan to lower status" "The Times", May 12, 1964]
*Bradford county borough was to absorb part of
Queensbury and Shelfurban district, but was to lose the Tong area
*Halifax county borough was to take in part of
Sowerby Bridgeurban district
*Leeds and Huddersfield county boroughs were to remain unchanged
*The county borough of
Dewsburywas to be enlarged (and possibly renamed) to include the municipal boroughs of Batleyand Ossett, most of Spenboroughborough and Heckmondwikeand Mirfieldurban districts
*A new non-county borough was to formed by the merger of the county borough of
Wakefield, Horburyurban district and most of Stanley urban district
*The borough of
Keighleywas to be left unchanged
*The borough of
Brighousewas to merge with Ellandurban district and part of Queensbury and Shelf UD
*The boundaries of the borough of
Pudseywere to change by gaining the Tong area from Bradford county borough
*The borough of
Pontefractwas to merge with the urban districts of Featherstoneand Knottingley(with boundary changes)
*The borough of
Castlefordwas to unite with Normantonurban district (with boundary changes)
*The borough of Morley was to be enlarged by absorbing part of Spenborough
Garforthand Rothwell urban districts were to be united with part of Stanley urban district and part of Tadcaster Rural District
Denby Dale, Kirkburtonand Holmfirthurban districts were to merge
Colne Valleyand Melthamurban districts were to be united
Baildon, Bingley, Denholmeand Shipley urban districts were to form a district
Aireboroughand Horsforthurban districts were to unite
York and North Midlands General Review Area (Report No.8)
The area consisted of the administrative counties of
Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire East Riding, and the part of Yorkshire West Riding not included in the West Yorkshire Special Review Area; and the county boroughs of Barnsley, Derby, Doncaster, Kingston-upon-Hull, Nottingham, Rotherham, Sheffieldand York.
The commission recommended that the county borough of Barnsley be reduced to a non-county borough in the administrative county of Yorkshire West Riding, and that all the remaining county boroughs continue to exist, all with extended boundaries. ["London Gazette".
26 June 1964] ["Boundary extensions proposed for seven county boroughs". "The Times". June 25, 1964.]
It was also recommended that part of the administrative county of Yorkshire West Riding be transferred to the North Riding. The area concerned was:
*The boroughs of
*The urban district of
*The rural district of Ripon and Patley Bridge
*Most of the rural district of Nidderdale
Part of the administrative county of Yorkshire North Riding was to be transferred to the East Riding, namely:
*The borough of Scarborough
*The urban district of Scalby
*Most of the rural district of Scarborough
The expansions of county boroughs proposed were
*Sheffield to take in part of the rural district of Chesterfield in Derbyshire, and Wortley
*Nottingham to take in "nearly all" of the urban districts of Carlton,
West Bridgfordand Beeston and Stapleford, parts of Arnold urban district, the rural districts of Basford and Bingham, and some of Long Eatonurban district in Derbyshire. This would have increased the population of Nottingham greatly, from 315,000 to 469,000.
*Hull to take in most of
Haltempriceurban district and parts of the rural districts of Beverley and Holderness
*Derby would expand greatly with parts of the rural districts of South East Derbyshire, Belper and Repton, nearly doubling its population from 132,000 to 215,000
*Rotherham would increase its population substantially by taking in most of
Rawmarshurban district and part of Rotherham Rural District
*York would expand into its surrounding rural districts of Nidderdale, Flaxton and Derwent
*Doncaster would be extended slightly by adding part of
Doncaster Rural District
Ideas not taken up included the amalgamation of the three Yorkshire administrative counties to form a single administrative county of Yorkshire and the request of
Chesterfieldto become a county borough. A draft proposal for an area of 100km² with a population of 34,000, including Swadlincoteto be transferred to Leicestershire was withdrawn in the final recommendations. ["Wider Frontiers Planned for Seven Towns". "The Times". September 6, 1962.]
None of these recommendations were put into force. Objections were voiced to the extensions of Nottingham, Sheffield and York county boroughs into adjoining areas. The area proposed to become part of the North Riding became part of
North Yorkshirein 1974.
Lincolnshire and East Anglia General Review Area (Report No.9)
The area consisted of the administrative counties of Lincolnshire, Parts of Holland, Lincolnshire, Parts of Kesteven, Lincolnshire, Parts of Lindsey,
Norfolk, East Suffolkand West Suffolk; and the county boroughs of Great Yarmouth, Grimsby, Ipswich, Lincoln and Norwich.
The Commission recommended the amalgamation of the counties of Holland and Kesteven, but the retention of two county councils for Suffolk. The report called for the enlargement of four of the county boroughs (with Grimsby absorbing the non-county borough of Cleethorpes), with the fifth, Great Yarmouth being reduced to a municipal borough in the county of Norfolk. Changes in county boundaries proposed would have led to an area of East Suffolk adjoining Great Yarmouth passing to Norfolk. ["Boundary Changes Proposed in East Anglia". "The Times".
May 13, 1963.] The draft proposals had also suggested that Stamford and area be transferred to the Soke of Peterborough(or rather, to Huntingdon and Peterborough), most of Marshland Rural Districtto be transferred to Cambridgeshire from Norfolk, and that the area of Cambridgeshirearound Newmarket should be transferred to West Suffolk. These proposals were toned down or withdrawn in the final proposals. ["Bigger Towns Emerge in Plans for East Anglia". "The Times". May 6, 1965.]
Inquiries were held on some of the proposed changes (the extension of Norwich, demotion of Yarmouth and amalgamation of Holland and Kesteven), but no alterations were made in the local government of the area until 1974.
North Western General Review Area
No final proposals were produced for the North West region, consisting of Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire and Cheshire (except those parts in the South East Lancashire and Merseyside special review areas).
Draft proposals were presented in October 1965, and were limited in scope. It was proposed that
Barrow-in-Furnessbecome a non-county borough, and extensions to the boundaries of the other county boroughs in the area.
The creation of a county of
Cumbriato cover Cumberland, Westmorlandand Furness, although floated, was not in the draft recommendations.
outh East Lancashire Special Review Area
The county boroughs of
Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salfordand Stockportand the municipal boroughs of Stretfordand Ashton-under-Lyneput forward a joint proposal for consideration by the Commission in July 1960. This proposal would have seen an extension of county boroughs, and the creation of two new county boroughs based on Stretford and Ashton, such that the core urban area was contiguous county boroughs. ["Struggle for Survival in South-East Lancashire". "The Times". July 18, 1960.]
Draft proposals were presented in December 1965 and would have seen a new county created based on the Manchester conurbation, divided into nine most-purposes boroughs, based on Manchester, Salford, Altrincham/Sale/Stretford (the future
Trafford), Stockport, Ashton-under-Lyne/Hyde/Mossley (the future Tameside), Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Bolton. ["New County Proposed for North West". "The Times". December 15, 1965.]
Mersey Special Review Area
Draft proposals were presented in December 1965. They were limited in scope and proposed boundary alterations in county boroughs and county districts only.
outhern General Review Area
No proposals were put forward by the Commission for this area before their dissolution. Among the representations made during this review were:
*The county boroughs of Oxford and Reading sought boundary extensions
*The county borough of Bournemouth proposed an extension to absorb the boroughs of Christchurch and Poole. The borough of Poole itself sought county borough status, while Dorset county council strongly objected to both ideas ["Dorset fights to keep Poole", "The Times",
July 27, 1965]
*The municipal boroughs of High Wycombe and Slough sought county borough status ["County borough status for Slough opposed" "The Times",
July 23, 1965]
*The Berkshire and Oxfordshire Federations of Labour Parties suggested the creation of "Thameshire" by the amalgamation of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and southern Northamptonshire. The idea was opposed by the county councils of Berkshire and Oxfordshire ["Merger of three counties sought", "The Times",
October 27, 1965]
*Aldershot sought county borough status on much larger boundaries including
Farnhamand Frimley and Camberleyin Surrey. ["Aldershot's ambitions opposed by Surrey". "The Times". July 15, 1965.]
Achievements and effectiveness
The commission met with limited success with only a few recommendations carried out. This was partly because the review process allowed for too much consultation and opportunity for objections. Typically there was a lack of consensus for proposals and all met with some level of appeal or disdain. As a result, the reporting process could take as long as four years. The lack of executive powers meant that proposals could be rejected entirely and the reviews did not allow for suggested changes to the functions of local authorities. Throughout the period, actioning the recommendations of the commission was kept off the policy agenda because of pressure on legislative timetables with other issues (such as post-war redevelopment), lack of money to fund reorganisation and public apathy towards the issue. [Bryne, T., "Local Government in Britain", (1994)]
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