- a thematic guide to Britain
regions - statistics, television and tourism
is not divided into regions , at least , not like the US with its
states, or Germany with its Länder, with their state or
regional governments and administrations. In England, the notion of
"region" does not exist - except for the London area. The
nearest thing that exists in Britain to an American state or a German
Land are the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, England,
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Each nation has its own regional parliament (Scotland) or
assembly (Wales and Northern Ireland), with considerable devolved
powers; but within England itself, there is no devolved regional
administration. Powers that are devolved are done so to metropolitan
areas (large urban areas), to boroughs, or area authorities, not to any
regional council or assembly.
Nonetheless, England is divided into regions statistically
because the European Union uses the concept of "regions" for many
statistical and economic analyses, for the allocation of
funding in the framework of European regional programmes, and for the
determination of constituencies for elections to the European
With the exception of the London area, which has a
powerful administration, the English regions are thus largely empty
shells. And this is what the English want.
Between 1998 and 2010, English regions enjoyed
embryonic non-elected administrations, as a precursor to the
establishment of real regional government in England; but voters were
not particularly keen on the idea. From 2004, the project was put on
ice, and indeed, in a referendum in 2004, voters in the north-eastern
region rejected the idea of a regional assembly for their
region by an overwhelming majority of 4:1 against. Given this clear
rejection in the region considered logically most likely to benefit
from a regional assembly, because farthest from London, the project was
abandoned, and the embryonic regional administrations were phased out
one by one.
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Why do the English not
want their country to be divided into regions?
In short, two reasons: the cost involved, and the perception that they
are quite unnecessary. Setting up a new layer of territorial
administration is seen as an expensive and unnecessary operation.
Voters do not believe that their region would be better managed by the
creation of a new administrative layer – quite the reverse.
Polls have shown that voters believe that the establishment of regional
assemblies and a new administrative layer would complicate life, create
a bureaucratic confusion and be costly for taxpayers.
The rejection of regionalisation by the English is also due to the
artificial nature of the existing regional structure used for
statistical purposes (as illustrated on the map). While some of the
statistical regions, like the Southwest, correspond more or less to
kingdoms that existed before the Norman Conquest in 1066, this has
little relevance for the English in the 21st century. For over a
thousand years, England has been divided not into regions, but into counties
known as shires
Thus, apart from the London area, the other eight regions have no
historical basis. They were more or less set up in the 1960s to
correspond to areas covered by regional television stations; some have
an obvious "capital", others have more than once city that could claim
the title of " regional capital " .
In addition, few people in England identity with a
region; people feel they belong to a county, or a city, but not to a
region. A person from the northeast of England will maybe say "I'm a
Geordie" (a person from Necastle on Tyne), but not "I'm a
north-easterner": Someone from Devon, in the southwest, may
say "I'm a Devonian", but is unlikely to say "I'm a south-westerner",
or even less likely to say "I'm from Wessex" (Wessex having
been the ancient Anglo-saxon kingdom of the southwest).
the English regions
Since 2010 , the regions of England no longer have any function except
as a framework for the collection of economic and social data. For
matters of public services and facilities for
which coordination between neighbouring areas is desirable, if
not essential, there are ad hoc associations of mayors or
In England, and in Britain as a whole, many of the
functions and services that are run by States in the US, or by
Länder in Germany, or by regions in France, are run by
devolved trusts or authorities, private operators, or operate
autonomously within a national framework. These include hospitals,
policing, schools, emergency services and local transport.
Regions of England:
In spite of the absence of regions, England used to have "Regional
boards " , but these regional tourist offices depend on the national
tourist board, called " Visit Britain".
Interestingly, England's eight tourist regions did
fully match the statistical regions, and tourist areas did not always
have the same name as the statistical region they covered. Thus, in
of tourism, the West Midlands region was called "The heart of
England" . Today, area tourism structures in England cover
For more information on the tourist regions of England , see Tourist regions in the