Old county names likely to return

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The Independent Online
THE RIDINGS of Yorkshire could be put back on the map with the revival of former counties, which is expected to be signalled at the Tory party conference.

Members of the Local Government Commission will next month visit five 'super counties', some of which are expected to be swept away in the reform of local government into unitary authorities.

But John Redwood, the local government minister responsible for the review, is expected to give a strong hint to the party faithful at the conference in Brighton that the Government is prepared to revive some of the old county names while streamlining the system.

Humberside, which straddled the river Humber after replacing one of the former Ridings, is one of the areas to be visited next month. It has been criticised for being a planner's creation with little reference to local people and their traditions.

Abolishing it would be a popular move. Mr Redwood is also being pressed by Tory MPs to revive Rutland, which is less certain. Other counties to be visited by the commission are Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire, Cleveland and Durham, North Yorkshire, and Derbyshire.

In rural areas, small counties could be retained, but in most, the counties are expected to go. The Prime Minister wants to see his constituency's county name, Huntingdonshire, revived. But some names could be revived without the authorities.

Ministers have rejected the idea of creating directly-elected US- style town mayors following protests from Tory MPs, who feared they would become too powerful.

Meanwhile, Environment ministers are being attacked by Labour for siphoning off money from the Urban Programme for the City Challenge. Alan Milburn, the Labour MP for Darlington, said figures he had received from the Government showed that the main victim was social spending for voluntary bodies from the Urban Programme, which had fallen by 27.6 per cent. Support for social schemes in inner-city areas fell from pounds 74,790 to pounds 54,096 between 1987 and 1992, he said.

The figures showed a fall of 8 per cent in total spending on economic, environmental and social schemes on the urban programme across the eight regions of England. The fall in London had been 12 per cent, the highest percentage decline in the country.