Opinion: English devolution – with maps

Being very much a politics geek, the renewed discussion on English Devolution following the pledge of home rule for Scotland by all three major party leaders, prompted me to start considering what England might look like if the same powers were devolved to it.

Two well known options for English devolution are those of either a devolved English Parliament or devolved regional assemblies for the regions used in European elections. To my mind the former (as a result of covering 53 million people) would continue over-centralisation in England while the latter is hindered by the regions lacking cohesive identities and being so large that power would remain remote from most people.

So instead, I’ve looked at two different models of how English devolution might be implemented:

1. Devolved County Assemblies

Devolved - counties 600
Link to full size version

This map shows a concept where existing ceremonial counties and major conurbations with a population of 500,000 or more get proportionally elected devolved assemblies to replace existing top-tier authorities. The reason for this threshold is that it would seem to be the smallest size capable of handling devolved powers and this has resulted in the map showing a county of West Mercia (named after the police authority) covering Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the merger of Leicestershire and Rutland, and the merger of Northumberland and County Durham due to the impracticality of splitting Tyneside.

Under this scheme local government would be reorganised into large unitary authorities with the option of also having parish councils. It would also need to involve the transfer of some wards between counties to account for instances where communities straddle ceremonial county boundaries. The downside of this concept is that many devolved units run the risk of being so small that they struggle (though this could be countered by cooperating more with neighbouring counties) and becoming dominated by small local elites due to their smallness.

 2. Small Regional Assemblies

Devolved - small regions 600

Link to full size version

 This map shows a concept where devolved assemblies are given to regions larger than counties but smaller than existing regions which are likely to have stronger identities and greater internal economic links. While there is healthy variation in size, the average size is similar to that of the states of Germany which seem to be near an optimum for effective government. As with the previous map, local government would need reorganisation (probably into large unitary authorities) as a result of this model of devolution.

When I shared an earlier version of this map on twitter (link) I got feedback which raised several issues worthy of consideration. This included north Northamptonshire and Derbyshire having stronger economic links to south Yorkshire than to the rest of their counties, Cheshire having a northern identity and looking to Manchester, Cumbria looking more eastwards than southwards, Warwickshire considering itself part of the west Midlands, a cultural divide in Hertfordshire, the Aldershot conurbation needing not to be split, the existence of the Milton Keynes and south Midlands city region and, of course, Cornwall having a strongly independent identity.

This map attempts to take into account all of these issues by partitioning Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire as well as moving Aldershot into Surrey, integrating the West Midlands conurbation into a wider West Midlands region and combining an expanded Merseyside and Greater Manchester into much larger combined region containing a considerable hinterland.

 

What both maps raise, of course, is the considerable complexity and difficulty in coming up with a model of devolution for England. Despite this, it remains vital that those of us in England start to think about what shape we want our country to have in the future.

And if you’d like to try coming up with a map of your own, I highly recommend these maps of English districts as starting points:

* George Potter is a Vice-Chair of the Social Liberal Forum and a campaigner for Guildford Liberal Democrats, writing in a personal capacity.

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97 Comments

  • Sam Ghibaldan 22nd Sep '14 - 3:53pm

    I’ve long backed regional devolution in England, but of late I’ve started to think an English Parliament is more likely to be supported by the public given the relatively low support for regional bodies (as opposed to England or Wales). It’s the old saying: don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. Further, the Scottish Parliament had the advantage of a pre-existing legal system, as would an English Parliament. Otherwise regional bodies would taken over responsibility for criminal law etc.

    Of course, within an English Parliament structure there should be further devolution to regional bodies, e.g. of enterprise and infrastructure powers.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Sep '14 - 4:00pm

    The second map looks good, but so does the Euro regions map. Either of the two could exist within an English Parliament, but no English parliament is not a deal breaker for me.

    Here is the Euro regions map:

    http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps/list-meps-by-region.html

  • Tristan Gray 22nd Sep '14 - 4:13pm

    Second map looks spot on. Not so small that its confused with local councils, not so large that it loses all kind of local identity.

  • Conor McGovern 22nd Sep '14 - 4:18pm

    I agree with Eddie about an English Parliament with regional devolution beyond that. I’m sure we can all largely agree that English Votes for English Laws is a crude and insufficiently radical step.

  • Drew Durning 22nd Sep '14 - 4:57pm

    I much prefer the idea of a structured approach to devolution but find it difficult to relate to these areas without there also being a proposal of what powers go with it. The DevoMax that Scotland gets over the coming months will include agriculture, fisheries and forestry, economic development, education, environment, food standards, health, home affairs, police and fire services, local government, sport and the arts, transport, training, tourism, research and statistics and social work plus some taxation and welfare spending powers. I’ve left out legal / justice as it’s complex enough Scotland having it’s own legal system! My gut feel is that some of these powers should be at the England level (English MPs vote on English matters) and some at larger regional levels say the current EU regions.

    Also any regional proposal must also look at the Tier structures below. While being very keen on power being as close to the people as possible, I’m also wary of the duplicated costs associated with administering some of these powers on a regional basis. If creating regions is also associated with losing counties and met boroughs and power going straight from new regional levels to beefed up district levels then that might make economic sense out of Big English Devolution and allow for smaller rather than larger regions

  • Us English voters do not want a bunch of “assemblies”. We just don’t want Scots MP’s to vote on England-only legislation; for example that relating to the England NHS.

    Are the lib dems going to do the dirty and allow non-England MP’s to continue to vote on our legislation? If they do then I will be hammering my keyboard at the next election to help remind everyone of this.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Sep '14 - 5:24pm

    The various solutions to the regional slice-up including George’s two show what a problem we have here. I would suggest that the principal job of any English Parliament would be to make sure that it lasted no longer than three years and to determine (after a lot of work by an ‘independent’ Boundary Commission which regions it will create to replace itself.

  • Sadie Smith 22nd Sep '14 - 5:55pm

    There have been Working Parties for years. The biggest problem has been the donut round London.
    In practical ters there are regions which have experience and could implement something sensible fairly quickly.
    On no account have an Enlish Parliament. That keeps the centralisation and does very little to devolve power. Most English people will understand that centralisation is not a good thing.

  • George – I like it, and I suspect a lot of others here will too. But as Sam says, we mustn’t let the best be the enemy of the good, and I don’t know how easy it will to get our voices heard over the shouts of “ENGLAND!”

    If we have to have a parliament for England then I would suggest that it should
    – exclude London, which is too different to the rest of the country, and should get DevoMax in it’s own right.
    – be physically based outside of London
    – be full time

    I think the worst idea is having the English MPs at Westminster get together on their own to discuss English matters. England deserves better than a part time parliament.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd Sep '14 - 6:19pm

    interesting read on the details, regardless of whether we might disagree with the reasons given:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/andrewlilico/100028176/the-unionist-way-forward/

  • Richard Church 22nd Sep '14 - 6:37pm

    Pleased to see you suggesting a South Midlands region. It exists as a Local Enterprise Partnership, thanks particularly to input from councils which were at the time Lib Dem controlled. It works well in terms of communications, industry and demographics. It includes places currently on the fringe of Euro regions with which they don’t fit well. I think it should also include North Northamptonshire, which has more in common with Northampton, Bedford and MK than Leicester, Derby and Nottingham, but that’s a detail.

  • I very much agree with the idea of regional assemblies.

    Last time around my sense was that there were two problems: one was that some didn’t make automatic sense, and that they didn’t have enough power to be widely seen as relevant.

    My instinct is that it might be worth suspending judgement on boundaries until there is a constitutional convention, so that the boundaries that emerge reflect the strongest feelings, rather than being imposed too logically in advance.

    In many ways the last government was right to devolve limited powers to begin with. The roadmap this time might need to do something similar, but with a clear timetable for greater devolution — so new regional assemblies can start to function as organisations before they have to take on big things, such as oversight of the NHS. A clear timetable might make it easier for these to be seen as “devolution coming into being”

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Sep '14 - 6:56pm

    OK. I do recognise that I’m likely rather out of step here. I’m pretty sceptical of devolution per se. Whilst it is great to see someone stick their head above the parapet and look at maps, what is missing is any thought about WHAT is devolved. The term, ‘more powers,’ has been bandied about but there has been remarkably little about what those, ‘powers,’ are. The power to make unpopular decisions?

    Moreover, for all the hours that have been spent on politics talkboards over this I am still struggling to see a great deal of demand for this. Look at how the PCC elections turned out, look at how the elected mayor model has not proved popular. I make no value judgment here about why this is, I simply point out that it is in no one’s interests to follow the PCC route and end up with near single-digit turnouts.

    So….Instead of getting tied up in knots over maps that are not going to please too many we look to better use the localism we have. The public at large doesn’t seem too engaged with local councils – why? How can that be changed? The NHS has loads of local trusts – how can they be used? Free Schools might not be the ideal model in many ways, but surely there is scope for localism. How about we improve PCCs (or abolish them and establish some better-working local model)? Why can quangos not have perfectly effective regional structures in their work?

    It should not just be a question of issues either, Very often for example the young don’t get much of a voice and the boomer generation dominates local councils (go to a planning meeting). Why is this and what can we do about it? There is no point in taking, ‘powers,’ away from a political class in Westminster and giving them to an equally problematic local political class.

    So there’s my idea to be shot at. No new structures, no reinventing the wheel, no moving problems around. Just taking what we have and using it better.

    It is also worth adding that none of this deals with corporate power, which is the bigger problem – but no one seems to want to talk about that.

  • David Evershed 22nd Sep '14 - 7:30pm

    The smaller regional assemblies map looks a bit like the Police Commissioner areas – and look how many people were interested in voting in that election.

  • I like your second map but can’t see Yorkshire wanting to be part of owt but Yorkshire!

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 7:50pm

    Just a quickie as I’m off out delivering leaflets but Lancashire/Cheshire/Merseyside and Greater Manchester all belong together. Except for those parts of Lancashire now in Cumbria, this offers the great benefit of reuniting the old counties of Lancashire and Cheshire with their daughter metropolitan counties created by the Tories in 1974.

    It would also provide an almost London-rivalling population.

    ‘Border communities’ must be consulted (i.e. a vote) and not imposed upon yet again by Boundary Commission cartographers or nearby land-grabing city-states!!!

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 7:52pm

    PS – George, thanks for the maps 🙂

  • @Little Jackie Paper – In my view the same powers would be devolved to England as to Scotland, Wales and NI. That way Westminster deals with “all UK” issues and everything else is devolved down to countries / regions, and lower still if possible.

  • I appreciate the effort taken in drawing the maps but I simply don’t understand this notion of dividing a county in two because one half of it has “greater economic ties” with some city in the neighbouring county. It’s a path to nowhere, because there is never any such thing as a correct border, whether drawn for ecomonic reasons or for delineating regional identities, etc. Surely each border must be drawn along the “path of least resistance”: that is to say in a position which is most likely to seem sensible not only to local residence with a sense of county or regional identity?

    Where does the North begin? In Sheffield, or Derbyshire? Or halfway through Derbyshire? What about all the thousands of people in Herts, Cambs, Essex etc who commute to London and simply treat Cambridge etc as a dormitory? Their primary “economic ties” are clearly not with Cambs but with London. Yet you’re not for one minute suggesting anything other than a separate Greater London, are you?

    We simply have to draw some borders that make the administrate regions of England sensible sizes, and further to that, every region must have the same devolved powers as every other region and as the Scottish Parliament. If they don’t, then the West Lothian Question remains unanswered: there will be some MPs voting on matters that affect other constituencies but not their own.

    Surely it must follow from the above that regions must be large enough to have the capability to administer and use the same powers that the Scottish Parliament has. That must proclude small regions. I don’t understand the logic of dividing Lancashire into two halves, leaving a rather small northern half. Why not one region comprising Lancashire and Cheshire? One might argue that Cornwall, with a strong sense of identity, might be a special exception to the size rule, but on the whole, your second map would be better, I believe, if it were reduced to no more than 10 regions.

    Just remember again: there is never any such thing as a correctly-positioned border. So, don’t worry about it and take the path of least resistance. Stick as much as possible to historical county boundaries and group the counties together as sensibly as is practical.

    Michael

  • Graham Evans 22nd Sep '14 - 8:02pm

    In determining the precise boundaries we could look at the Swiss example in the 1970s when the Canton of Bern was split into two, creating a new, essentially French speaking canton, and leaving Canton Bern as predominantly German speaking. Every parish was allowed to vote on which canton it wished to join. This then laid the foundation for a first draft of the new boundaries. If a parish found itself isolated, ie surrounded by parishes which had voted differently, it voted again , either to confirm its first decision or to change its mind. Some of its surrounding parishes also had a second vote but I cannot remember the criteria for that possibility. Obviously this involved a lot of voting, but the key thing was local people had some say, not simply a set of map makers. Obviously to apply this approach to creating English regions (or whatever you want to call them) requires an initial first draft, but then proceeding along the Swiss line would for instance give the people of Cambridge the option of deciding whether they have stronger links to Essex and Hertfordshire than they have to Norwich. Incidentally, in the process I think there is a strong case for bringing some of the districts surrounding Greater London into the GLA as the existing boundaries in some places make no sense. I imagine similar considerations may also apply to other areas surrounding our big cities.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 8:03pm

    @Little Jackie Paper 22nd Sep ’14 – 6:56pm
    “OK. I do recognise that I’m likely rather out of step here. I’m pretty sceptical of devolution per se.”

    Not surprising LJP, I get the impression you are more of a Labourite than a Liberal Democrat.

    JUF 22nd Sep ’14 – 7:53pm has is pretty much right but, slightly paraphrasing JUF “In my view the same powers MUST BE devolved to England, Wales and NI as to Scotland. That way Westminster deals with “all UK” issues and everything else is devolved down to countries / regions and local council level”. Hope you don’t mind my cheek JUF!

  • Ruth Coleman-Taylor 22nd Sep '14 - 8:06pm

    I welcome the opportunity to look at possible maps for devolved government in England, because it helps to show how the population and economic activity is distributed around England and, hence, where decision-making needs to occur.
    I think it is also important to look at what other governance functions occur at sub-state level. When we had the experiment of Regional Chambers (late 1990s till about 2009) these were based on the Euro-regions. They were composed mainly of representatiives from Councils in the regions plus representatives of regional interest groups, and were originally supposed to be a stepping-stone towards elected regional government (but the Labour Government seemed to lose interest in that agenda).
    When I was a member of the South West Regional Assembly, as Leader of Liberal Democrat North Wiltshire. the main business was regional planning and economic development, scrutinising the bodies delivering services at regional level and liaising with the EU on policy and funding for our region.
    A lot of public services are now delivered by bodies which are outside regular democratic accountability. The creation of elected regional government gives us the opportunity to correct this democratic deficit, as long as the new bodies are of a suitable size and structure.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 8:29pm

    @Sam Ghibaldan 22nd Sep ’14 – 3:53pm
    “I’ve long backed regional devolution in England, but of late I’ve started to think an English Parliament is more likely to be supported by the public ”

    LOL – Not once they realise that would mean permanent Tory control and even less local democracy they won’t!

    A ‘Like’ vote for Michael Kilpatrick 22nd Sep ’14 – 7:57pm. Several common sense comments.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Sep '14 - 8:31pm

    My instincts are clearing on this one. Let’s introduce an English parliament with full Scottish powers, followed by regional assemblies with lesser powers.

  • David Pollard, maybe Leicester got to campaign to go unitary. But did the other parts of the county have any say in that? It’s all well and good going unitary – it’s much better, having the planning and transport run by the same authority rather than two separate tiers, for example. However, in taking a city unitary it often leaves the “rump” of the county with little opportunity to do so itself, having been robbed of the ecomonic strength of the city with which to combine. Cambridgeshire is a good example, I think. Peterborough went unitary some time ago which means there are no significantly sized cities in the north of Cambridgeshire under the jurisdiction of Cambridgeshire County Council. Whilst it makes clear sense for South Cambs and Cambridge to become a unitary authority with something like the current external border ot South Cambs (South Cambs fully encloses Cambridge), there are few significant urban areas in the north of county. Large and sparse rural districts require more expensive services and lack the economy of scale provide by the presence of significant urban areas.

    Sorry, but it’s just plain unfair that Peterborough got to hive itself off as a stand-alone city authority and thus making it more difficult for other parts of Cambridgeshire to unitise.

    It seems that those who get their slice of the cake first in fact get all of the cake. It’s despicable.

    Michael

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 8:41pm

    @David Pollard 22nd Sep ’14 – 8:24pm
    David, I’m not sure Rutland would have to be anything other than Rutland under devolved powers if that is what its people voted for would it? It certainly wouldn’t have the population to wield the social or economic power of a historical Lancashire-Cheshire or a Yorkshire-based region.

    I was struck by what a fellow Lib Dem said on another thread – this is about taking powers back from Westminster, not being given them! Communities must be permitted to take powers appropriate to their aspirations and what their population can sustain.

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 8:42pm

    @Eddie Sammon 22nd Sep ’14 – 8:31pm

    Hi Eddie – your instincts perhaps but your thoughts not! 😉

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Sep '14 - 8:47pm

    David Pollard 22nd Sep ’14 – 8:24pm re my post of 8:41 … apologies David, I (mis) read your post too quickly! But I think the point remains loosely valid. Stephen

  • George Potter, it would, I think, be lunacy to allow any district *not* to go unitary when regional assemblies are created. Who on earth would want a district/city council, a county council AND a regional assembly, as well as national government? Four tiers of administration is too many! Regional assemblies should be accompanied by the wholescale reorganisation of local authorites and a flat unitary structure as in Scotland. The public do not want MORE politicians. And regional assemblies plus unitary locals would produce a significant reduction in the number of politicians. For example, East Anglia might be between four and six counties, that’s a good 300 county councillors to abolish and be replaced by say 125 assembly members (assuming a similar size as the Scottish Parliament).

  • stuart moran 22nd Sep '14 - 10:04pm

    hmmmm

    Initially I would like to say thanks to George Potter for trying to bring some structure to the discussion

    The reason England has not been granted devolved powers from the UK Parliament – which incidentally is the deriving power of the authority of the devolved Parliaments, and it can take them back too (not that they will) – is because it is so difficult to make it work. This is why UK MPs representing seats outside England have the right to vote – it is because no Government has presented an English devolution bill. Until that day comes then the UK Parliament as a whole votes on these matters.

    Firstly, a full English Parliament would be dominant and there would be no longer a United Kingdom to speak of – a UK we have just said we want to retain. This Parliament would also lead to the same problem we have for Scotland i.e. a Labour dominated North and urban area having policies set by a rural and suburban Tory Government…..or vice versa. Can’t see that lasting long without problems and calls for further devolution

    Secondly, the regional Government idea looks a better option for proper devolution but the detail is devilishly difficult as has been talked about above and there is the risk of one party states…

    Needless to say it will have to be under a PR system

    The other option – favoured by the Tories and some other foolish people is to bastardise the UK Parliament into some sort of pseudo-English Parliament – the only argument for that is that it is cheap……as if that should be the guiding principle for democrats. And it is under FPTP as well…..

    The problem is that any solution will require both maturity of the electorate and the politicians putting it in place. I have little confidence in either sad to say…….the former because they look too much as emotion and the latter because…well you know. The electorate would be better placed if there was a proper well-informed debate followed by a referendum, what are the chances of a well-informed debate based on what we have seen in the last few days

    I will re-iterarate another point I made recently. The Tories want to have an English Parliament to hide the fact they are no longer a national party. The reason why the WLQ is problematic for Labour is that they actually are well represented in all three British countries

    To think we spent time saying how good the union is and then all the discussion since seems focused on making sure it will only exist in name

    As normal it is the Tories who are making a mess of this, supported by the usual subjects on the Labour benches. Miliband and Clegg need to make common ground, like was done in Scotland and bring some maturity to this debate. If Clegg hasn’t the authority to do it from the LD side then someone else must stand up and do so. Labour and the LD delivered a well thought through Scottish devolution – I hope they can do the same for England

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Sep '14 - 10:04pm

    Stephen Hesketh – ‘Not surprising LJP, I get the impression you are more of a Labourite than a Liberal Democrat.’

    Does it matter? I make no partisan political point here. If you want to ask, I am not a member of the LDP and in my near-20 voting years I have at various times in various places voted for candidates put forward by all three of the current main political parties and one Green. The last vote I cast, earlier this year, was for an LDP candidate.

    My point was that I feel we should use the localism we have (and underuse) rather than rush headlong into artificial political structures that the evidence of PCC elections suggests are not really wanted. You might think I’m talking cobblers – if so fine. But perhaps you could comment on my post rather than my lack of ideological fealty to any particular party.

  • stuart moran 22nd Sep '14 - 10:06pm

    hmmmm

    Initially I would like to say thanks to George Potter for trying to bring some structure to the discussion

    The reason England has not been granted devolved powers from the UK Parliament – which incidentally is the deriving power of the authority of the devolved Parliaments, and it can take them back too (not that they will) – is because it is so difficult to make it work. This is why UK MPs representing seats outside England have the right to vote – it is because no Government has presented an English devolution bill. Until that day comes then the UK Parliament as a whole votes on these matters.

    Firstly, a full English Parliament would be dominant and there would be no longer a United Kingdom to speak of – a UK we have just said we want to retain. This Parliament would also lead to the same problem we have for Scotland i.e. a Labour dominated North and urban area having policies set by a rural and suburban Tory Government…..or vice versa. Can’t see that lasting long without problems and calls for further devolution

    Secondly, the regional Government idea looks a better option for proper devolution but the detail is devilishly difficult as has been talked about above and there is the risk of one party states…

    Needless to say it will have to be under a PR system

    The other option – favoured by the Tories and some other foolish people is to turn the UK Parliament into some sort of pseudo-English Parliament – the only argument for that is that it is cheap……as if that should be the guiding principle for democrats. And it is under FPTP as well…..

    The problem is that any solution will require both maturity of the electorate and the politicians putting it in place. I have little confidence in either sad to say…….the former because they look too much as emotion and the latter because…well you know. The electorate would be better placed if there was a proper well-informed debate followed by a referendum, what are the chances of a well-informed debate based on what we have seen in the last few days

    I will re-iterarate another point I made recently. The Tories want to have an English Parliament to hide the fact they are no longer a national party. The reason why the WLQ is problematic for Labour is that they actually are well represented in all three British countries

    To think we spent time saying how good the union is and then all the discussion since seems focused on making sure it will only exist in name

    As normal it is the Tories who are making a mess of this, supported by the usual subjects on the Labour benches. Miliband and Clegg need to make common ground, like was done in Scotland and bring some maturity to this debate. If Clegg hasn’t the authority to do it from the LD side then someone else must stand up and do so. Labour and the LD delivered a well thought through Scottish devolution – I hope they can do the same for England

    Not impressed with political discourse in the UK at the moment – that referendum shows how poor things are

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Sep '14 - 10:10pm

    Ruth Coleman-Taylor – ‘A lot of public services are now delivered by bodies which are outside regular democratic accountability. The creation of elected regional government gives us the opportunity to correct this democratic deficit, as long as the new bodies are of a suitable size and structure.’

    That’s very optimistic. Large corporates have a lot of sway and it is far from clear to me that regionalisation will counter it. This is not, of course, to say that the present arrangements are better, just to say that one has to look at concentrations of corporate power AS WELL AS the, ‘Westminster elite.’

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Sep '14 - 10:16pm

    stuart moran – ‘The Tories want to have an English Parliament to hide the fact they are no longer a national party. ‘

    2010 General Election in Scotland – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_United_Kingdom_general_election_results_in_Scotland

    CON – 412,855
    SNP – 491,368
    LDP – 465,471

  • I highly recommend that you all study the American Constitution for an example of what Federalism (with obvious UK tweaking-Monarchy, common law, how these powers fit into the existing EU legal structure) should look like:

    In the US, though the courts have let the balance toward Washington to increase MOST powers are supposed to be reserved to the individual states, with the Federal Government in Washington ONLY having those power that are specifically granted it in the US Federal Constitution. I will give that in the 200 years since American Independence that Washington has obviously taken more powers and the states lost a lot, but in theory the US Constitution is a good framework (substitution of the nations of Scotland, N. Ireland, Wales, England, the minor provinces and overseas crown territories for U.S. States, obviously).

  • George’s very useful maps confirm my fear that regional devolution in England would be deeply undesirable.

    Why? Many of the proposed units would be Tory one-party states, even with PR.

    Take Sussex, Kent & Surrey. Not only would this be Tory dominated under almost all conceivable circumstances, the leading Tory politicians in these counties tend to have very safe seats, which are invariably located in the most affluent areas. Those parts of the region that suffer from deprivation and underdevelopment (mostly around the coast and the Thames Estuary) would continue to be ignored.

    It won’t do.

    I tend to be sceptical of decentralisation, certainly if attempted on too small a scale. Examples of decentralisation in practice are not usually pretty. Take, for example, the United States, where decentralisation allows martial law for young people, paramilitary policing, mass incarceration, the jailing of teenagers for missing school, etc. That’s what decentralisation enables today. In the past, it allowed slavery followed by segregation.

    There is nothing inherently liberal about permitting parochial bullies to rule the roost.

  • stuart moran 22nd Sep '14 - 10:51pm

    LJP

    I know, not that impressive is it.

    Remind me how many MPs they have in Scotland again?

    Our Parliament is based on FPTP not PR and they are not prepared to change it, instead they are just trying to change the constitution

    Why are you so keen to defend them ?

  • Denis Mollison 22nd Sep '14 - 10:53pm

    For information, the official map of current UK local authorities can be found here. I used its 2009 predecessor when devising the STV scheme for Westminster put forward by David Howarth for the Lib Dems – and voted down by combined Labour and Tory parties – in the Commons in February 2010 .

  • stuart moran 22nd Sep '14 - 10:53pm

    JJ

    The US Constitution is an interesting document but they also use the electoral college system to prevent the bullying of small states by bigger ones – or that is how they see it

    In your example how would you balance the massive disparity between England and the rest….

  • You can calculate some rough options at http://www.constructaregion.org.uk (something I developed about 10 years ago for exactly this purpose!)

  • @Sesenco: In fact, when the United States became independent, slavery was the law in almost all states. It was decentralisation that allowed individual states to choose to outlaw slavery, and gradually created a solid antislavery bloc. Among the circumstances that led to the American civil war were the attempts by the slave states to mandate that slave law be extended to cover slaves that had escaped to free states — in other words, an attempt to create a centralised slave law for the entire Union. It was not until it became clear that the free states were likely to end up with a permanent majority that the slave states started touting the merits of decentralisation.

    What you also miss is that regional devolution of powers to the state level allows individual states to experiment with progressive policies which later on can become examples for the entire country, if they are successful; while the problems you remark are confined to their own regions, and can act as a warning to the rest of the country.

  • A few more remarks, in no particular order:
    1) It is desirable, regardless of the particular form that English devolution might take, that England obtain an integral identity, rather than just ending up as a convenient geographical designation.
    2) It is also desirable that devolution recognise the distinct interests of English regions, particularly when all-England institutions might tend to privilege the metropolis over the rest of the country.
    3) Regions which are too small are likely to end up like French départements, mere administrative units with little identity of their own and minimal power in the face of the central government.

    A good solution is one which will balance all of these factors. My own guess is that four to six regions would be optimal, but perhaps a good case could be made for more or fewer.

  • That’s a good question Stuart, and the electoral college does prevent the bulling of rural areas by the urban centers, or as you put it bullying by the big states against the little ones.

    I don’t really know a great answer at this time, but my first inclination is to say that maybe a Reform of the House of Lords should go along with this, where they are given more power, and like the US Senate a certain number is represented by each nation/region-all being equal (2-4 or so..) and perhaps lifetime appointments phased out? Perhaps they wouldn’t be a Senate, but could with say a 2/3 or some high hurdle majority override legislation that isn’t good for the whole country (and hence the individual states).

    Or here’s another idea that marries that of the author of this piece. An English Parliament just like those of Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland, but the regional councils are the ones that appoint such members (like each gains 1-2) in the English Parliament. Some may be dominated by Tories, some by Labour, others hopefully enough to have some Lib Dem mixed in..?

  • stuart moran 23rd Sep '14 - 5:50am

    jedi

    If there are regional Parliaments/assemblies then they run the risk of becoming one party fortresses, this is exacerbated by FPTP – there would not to be much else than Labour in a Manchester or Liverpool centred one!

    The debate highlights the problem we have – it was less an issue with Wales and Scotland – about what an English Parliament should be like

    Should the English have a devolved Government of some sort……Probably, yes

    Should it be regional or national…….Not sure

    What powers should it have….depends on Question 2

    Should it be PR or FPTP….not sure (I favour some sort of PR)

    How should it be put in place……Government proposal, approved by whole UK Parliament, Referendum

    I cannot see the process taking less than 5 years in order to ensure it is done properly…perhaps longer. And the PM wanted to have an answer by Christmas……

    I fear omnishambles again….is there nothing that this man touches that doesn’t turn to rot

  • Peter Galton 23rd Sep '14 - 9:58am

    The 2nd map is better, but I am a man of Wessex and I would be looking at using the old Saxon Kingdom as a start. Being from Hampshire I always look towards the west. I do not like being in the South East. What ever we do, we need enough time to try and get it right. Keep our word to Scotland and then sort the rest of us out.

  • matt (Bristol) 23rd Sep '14 - 10:46am

    Freedom for Aldershot!

    Seriously, though this illustrates that there needs to be time to have this discussion (although within some kind of timetable otherwise it could go on forever).

    However, I am sceptical of regions as small as Devon, Cornwall, Lancashire and Lincolnshire having a longterm future, particularly with an 8m London around to bully them out of resources.

    I have previously stated my preferences for much large ‘provinces’ I guess in some ways successors of the Anglo-Saxon kingoms mentioned above (but based on more modern boundaries) and basically giving London rule over its hinterland of Est Berks, Bucks, Beds, Herts, Surrey, Kent and Sussex.

    I suspect however this would bite the dust at a referendum or a plebiscite – but that’s the point – when will we put a national proposal (or proposals) for England to the nation? will we forever take the NE referendum of the Labour era as a stopper? I think there is a hunger for change and for regional voices to coutnerbalance London’s shout; but why does no-one want to test this, and why should even elected people get to draw and set the borders without meaningful consultation?

  • Thanks George for the useful maps. For what it’s worth I think the best starting point would be the Euro constituencies as the right level fo regional government. Scotland, Wales, NI and London are 4 such regions and already have their own devloved governments. The South East would have to be split – far too large and unweildy – and no doubt there would be other tweaks. But for goodness sake let’s not just add regional government as yet another level of government. As others have said the current situation in England is a dogs breakfast, particularly where you have doughnut-shaped authorities (where unitary authorities control a city and a county council everything outside). Labour’s plan for more city governments ignores everyone else outside. The current Lib Dem plan to allow mixed devolution depending on what local councillors – sorry, local people – want for their areas is I’m sorry to say yet another dogs breakfast – a weak “let’s please everyone” compromise. As Maria Prezler said in an earlier post we have to revisit this policy and reverse it.

    Surely the best answer would be to have regional devolved assemblies with significant and similar powers, coupled with the REMOVAL of middle layers of government, such as county councils. Thus leaving everyone with local, regional and UK government. This would simplify the whole thing, produce economies of scale and instinctively the right level of governance.

  • peter tyzack 23rd Sep '14 - 11:33am

    progress has to be made in stages, not a top-down edict in the way that George’ excellent piece could be read. Remember the resistance of the Regional proposals in the North East, involving the usual lies from the supporters of the status -quo, fuelled by the insistence that the counties should be replaced with unitaries at the same time.
    Arguably there is no need for the hazard of a referendum, the low turn-outs of recent years is mandate enough for action to be taken.
    LJP has some very good points, why dream up new boundaries when we already have a myriad of existing boundary arrangements to choose from.. but what is essential is that local people feel that they are involved in the choosing. Proposals to, at a stroke, ‘scrap’ anything that people may have worked for/with and love is bound to cause resentful opposition.. people who love their counties despise the maligned term ‘unitary’.. language is a vital component.
    And, George, your condescending tone towards Parishes(includes Town Councils) suggests a lack of awareness of how they function for predominantly rural communities. They generally work together with neighbouring civil Parishes to negotiate/campaign on transport/planning matters or to co-organise local maintenance; so they are an incredibly important aspect of local governance, not to be lightly dismissed, but should be emulated, as happens in some cities with Community Councils.
    There’s a lot to this, and it has to be taken in stages, but lets do the deal with Scotland first, and crucially keep that under 5-yearly review.

  • peter tyzack 23rd Sep '14 - 12:06pm

    just a thought.. following the LJP suggestion, what do the Police Authority maps look like? They were supposedly set up to reflect the needs of the communities and conurbations, so would they form a good basis to work from, especially as since inception police Authorities have been amended to reflect local demands.? The other existing tier to investigate is all the Government Departments and Agencies and how they are regionalised. Highways Agency has Regions, so does Environment Agency(in fact more than one set as pollution control and flood prevention are differently organised). If it was proposed to adopt the existing arrangements of such Whitehall controlled bodies then the case could be made that we simply giving localised democratic control to otherwise London-centric authority. One thing is clear though, the Euro Regions are far too large to adequately connect with communities.

  • Peter Hayes 23rd Sep '14 - 1:20pm

    Peter T, I agree the Euro regions are too large. The SW covering Cornwall to Gloucestershire has very little to attract voter loyalty. I would support some sort of regionalism like the map 2 here as long as STV is used. The idea of English MPs as a grand committee seems a non starter think of the rows with, say, a Labour UK government and a Tory England.

  • Peter Hayes 23rd Sep '14 - 1:26pm

    Posted too soon. The biggest rows will be over the Barnett formula where funding for Scotland is based on the English spending plans using money raised from UK wide taxes.

  • Allan Heron 23rd Sep '14 - 2:18pm

    Delightfully geeky but good to see some serious grappling with what us Scots call the East Grinstead question 😉

    Some thoughts;-

    – A starting point has to be a division of powers between a UK seat of government and it’s constituent parts – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Between those there needs to be an equality of areas of responsibility. Within that, then it’s up to themselves.

    – The remaining UK seat of government needs to be trimmed in line with the residual powers that it has. Say 200 members?

    – Either regional government is all-encompassing or there will be a need for an English parliament of some shape or description. That shouldn’t reside in what would be the UK seat of government as is implied above. As noted, something that is not all encompassing would leave a number of mini-West Lothian questions.

    – Devolution is, at best, quasi-federal. It is NOT federalism which needs a written consitution. I’d prefer a genuinely federal solution but we do need to be careful not to mix the terms up. I’ve seen so many Liberal Democrats use the terms interchangably. See http://www.politicscymru.com/en/cat2/article9/ for an interesting article by Vernon Bogdanor on this topic.

    – There is no place for the Barnett formula in a reformed constitutional structure. We should also be thinking of radically different taxation arrangements. A situation where Westminster funds everything is entirely counter to the flow of this discussion.

    In closing, there was always an easy answer to the West Lothian question. What we are talking about is it. It’s taken the close call of the Scottish Referendum to get the political classes starting to think in these terms.

  • There are two problems with this.

    Firstly, the huge political, social and economic variation between town and country. If you look at a map of English election results, you see red pockets surrounded by the blue countryside. Both sides have very different wants and needs. Cambridge, to pick a small example, is already milked as a cash cow by the Tory-run County Council, with the very limited powers that body would have. I think the prospect of being run by the likes of Jim Paice and Graham Bright would instil mass panic.

    Secondly, some of these are just too small to be viable (i.e. Cornwall) or too big to have any sense of cohesion.

    Autonomous cities are an essential part of the answer, in my view.

  • Kay Kirkham 23rd Sep '14 - 2:42pm

    Here we go again discussing boundaries without any serious consideration about exactly what to devolve. This simply hands the opposition an opportunity to argue about whether this or that belongs to Yorkshire etc and in doing so, discredits the whole concept in the eyes of the electorate.

    We must ‘ sell’ devolution first then the rest follows.

  • Good work George, stating population in each area is very useful. The travel time from East Kent to West Sussex is hours, which is too long. I think we need to consider travel times of 0.5 and 1 hour by bus , train and car . Once a travel time is over 1 hour by bus it makes it very difficult for people to attend meetings. A way extremists took over unions and local government was to call meetings at awkward times in order to deter people from attending. All councilors and MPs should have meetings on Saturday morning in order to make it easy for people to see them.

    Travelling east west is often more difficult than travelling to London and or nearest large city.

    I suggest take county town of each county and assess travel times of 0.5 and 1 hr by car, bus and train and see how any people are within these zones. If meetings are 7- 9pm , how easy is it for people to attend who use public transport?

    I would suggest that a minimum turn out is required, say 50%. Voting for MPs should be compulsory but people can tick the box, none of the above . All MPs constituencies should have equal numbers of people, otherwise we are returning to rotten boroughs.

  • Debra Storr 23rd Sep '14 - 3:56pm

    FFS It’s not about maps it about powers.
    So start from an English Parliament to do the icky Criminal Law bit as you donlt have a seperate legal system and them run from the final maps of http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0014248
    That’s a better base than old county and modern political boundaries.
    It’s pretty clear what the basis building blocks are.
    perhaps let local authorities in the ‘grey areas’ opt where they jump?

    Now can you get back to the real problem.
    DevoMax has been promised to Scotland. That’s more or less verything bar foreign affairs, and defense and ‘equalisation’ if you want to take a serious stab at what DevoMax means (but you can have your nukes back)

  • Sadie Smith 23rd Sep '14 - 4:00pm

    Looking back, I think my earlier comment was a touch unkind. Put it down to catering for Warking Parties. Welcome and fun but sometimes at the end of a complicated day.
    Both the examples for the West Midlands have been sort of tried and both had virtues. They did get planning and service issues discussed faily sensibly. First was West Midlands County Council hated by London Tories. Second grew from Local Authority collaboration into voluntary Assembly with all Councils represented and additional ppl from business, Universities, Health and Voluntary Sector. There was an early desire for a Marches region but that works best if it includes a bit of Wales and is unlikely to be popular now in Wales. And vol Assembly killed by Gordon Brown.
    There are things to avoid. I am aware of some of the thinking behind the Black Country bloc. It is really complicated and could reduce effectiveness . Paul Tilsley did a lot to make WMids work in both structures. Michael Steed put in a lot for English regions.

  • Sadie Smith 23rd Sep '14 - 4:09pm

    Debra. England is complicated. Different areas might want to have differing powers initially . A UK federal Parliament might not be your option but it could have flexibility.

  • Allan Heron 23rd Sep '14 - 4:46pm

    There does need to be a UK Federal Parliament but it can’t be a dumping ground for the odds and sods that English regions don’t want. It’ll be West Lothian questions all over the place and that will no longer hold.

  • Allan Heron 23rd Sep '14 - 5:37pm

    A joint institution of Wales and the English Regions?

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Sep '14 - 10:18pm

    Thanks for this article – and your comments – George, I think they’re really helpful. Especially given your insistence that these are a starting point to show people what is possible, and that final boundaries would be independently determined, reviewed, and involve local opinion

    In answer to the charge that ‘no one is asking for another layer of politics’, I just have this to say: the UK government has promised Home Rule to Scotland and this must now happen. It has not promised the same to England. ‘English votes for English MPs’ sounds nice, but is a recipe for disaster given how our constitution actually works, so it should be opposed.

    Which is how we get to winning the argument about the necessity for devolved power. The question we have to be asking voters is, in effect ‘are you happy for Scottish MPs to continue to vote on English laws – because that is a fundamental requirement of the Westminster system? If so, then fine. If you’re not, then the only alternative is devolution (and a shrinking of Westminster to reflect it’s decreased duties).’

  • Matthew Jones 23rd Sep '14 - 10:19pm

    I’m very against regional assemblies. They’d be just another tier of government, and too remote to provide any useful degree of localism. Small can work very well – think of Luxembourg or Jersey if you don’t believe me. My favoured solution would be to hugely increase the powers and responsibilities of local authorities (i.e. the first map). OK, a few might start as one-party states, but I’d expect them to rectify the situation pretty quickly (remember – even Liverpool managed to ditch Militant and elect a Lib-Dem council). The main attraction is that existing counties have emotional and historical resonance and relate to peoples’ sense of identity. If people can connect with what they’re voting for, they ‘re more likely to engage with the process. A further attraction of this policy is that it would probably lead to Scottish and Welsh demands for some devolution of power away from Edinburgh and Cardiff, and thus strengthen the UK as a whole.

  • Charles Beaumont 23rd Sep '14 - 11:03pm

    There’s a lot to recommend the first idea (County-based). Lib Dems have learned to our cost that the British people do not like constitutional change and they don’t like it to give them new things they don’t recognise (like Police and Crime Commissioners). Counties have the weight of history behind them and are recognisable existing entities. To a radical Liberal this might be a “so what?” point, but for any of this to work, it will need widespread support, both from Labour and the Tories. (I realise there’s an issue with “West Mercia”, but why not call it “the Marches” which would make the more historically-minded feel better?!) As for the issue of size, there are examples of successful small states (e.g. Barbados, Luxembourg – both very different but offering low corruption, high standard of living) and very unsuccessful small states (Equatorial Guinea, Guyana). Size matters, but not as much as the rule of law, political stbaility, etc. etc.

  • London ought to go out to beyond the current bouroughs, perhaps teh M25 or a bit further.

    The south west neesd to be sufficiently large to accomodate powers, the four counties would be a starting point. Dorset Brisotl (and possibly Bath) I would cut out.

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th Sep '14 - 9:23pm

    @ iain bb 23rd Sep ’14 – 9:53pm

    Thanks to IBB re the Lancashire/Cheshire/Merseyside/Gtr Manchester option.

    I would rather hope that the smaller cities such as Preston, Chester and Lancaster might act as devolved seats of such a region as this might act to mitigate the dominance of and struggles between Liverpool and Manchester.

    I fully support Iain’s comments regarding Southport – to wish I might also add parts of Wirral similarly being placed into Merseyside. Warrington etc transferred to Cheshire and villages along the Lancashire-Yorkshire border transferred from one historic county to the other … Exactly what happens when distantly-based, number-crunching bureaucrats draw lines on maps!

    I am interested to know more regarding your (IBB’s) suggestion of a Constitutional convention on this topic.

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th Sep '14 - 9:26pm

    @George Potter 23rd Sep ’14 – 12:58am
    “I come from Surrey and neither it, nor Kent, nor Sussex are naturally Tory. If you look at the last county election results, while the Tories won a majority of seats, they did not win a majority of votes. And since the precedent is for assemblies to have PR there is no reason why any of the counties (or a region formed from them) would have an innate Tory majority.”

    Nice observation George.

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th Sep '14 - 9:37pm

    @Psi 24th Sep ’14 – 7:17pm
    “The south west neesd to be sufficiently large to accomodate powers, the four counties would be a starting point. Dorset Brisotl (and possibly Bath) I would cut out.”

    Cornwall is just as non-English as are Scotland and Wales. The Cornish should be left to decide if they wish to go for a county-region or something larger … and just how far ‘up Country’ that stretches.

  • Graham Pointer
    It was Heath’s creation of metropolitan counties which encouraged many people who had been councilors in town boroughs to give up politics. The introduction of expenses which encouraged longer meetings and combined with increased travel times, compared to town borough councils, persuaded many professional people to give up local politics. I would like to see whether duration of meeting combined with duration of travel over a certain time discourages participation both from people becoming councilors and attending meetings. Do we need to keep travel and meetings less than 3 hours or perhaps 2.5 hrs ?

  • Yes George – I did read your article in full and then noted two maps plus a log string about boundaries. Forget detailed boundaries – it’s a red herring and distracts from the main debate,

  • Chris Nelson 25th Sep '14 - 11:15pm

    Thanks for your article George. It is a good effort and an interesting perspective. I generally agree with your contention that an English Parliament is unavoidable if we are to solve the West Lothian question but that this needs to be accompanied with some form of sub english devolution. Either of your models – in general – provide some interesting food for thought as to how we could do this.

    With that all said, as a North Northamptonshire lad myself I would strongly object to any proposal to split my county in two, so as to hive off the three North Northamptonshire towns away from Northampton, with whom we have strong economic, cultural and historical links. As Richard Church has said, if there was to be a South Midlands region it would make far more sense for all of Northamptonshire to fall within it, rather than Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough being lumped with Leicester, Nottingham and Derby about which we know relatively little.

    I also suspect North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire probably would rather stay part of the East Midlands than be effectively annexed by Yorkshire and, similarly, that Yorkshire would be happier with an Assembly all to itself. But that, of course, is a matter for then.

    In summary then, i think the idea of mini regions is a sound one that is worth exploring, but i think trying to partition individual counties is usually a bad idea!

  • Matthew Jones 25th Sep '14 - 11:37pm

    It would be depressing to see devolution founder because of petty bickering over county boundaries. The metropolitan counties have never been popular but they make a lot of sense because they represent the true extent of some of our largest cities. Shorn of their outer suburbs, several of these cities would end up being run by “zombie” councils with an overblown urban infrastructure, multiple welfare dependents and a wholly inadequate tax base. Ultimately, it would be best to stick to the current boundaries. They were set in place for good reasons, and mostly those reasons still exist. I’m dubious about combining Northumberland and Durham, though; they’re very different places with long-standing rivalries. It’s surely possible to put Newcastle (+ Gateshead etc) in Northumberland and Sunderland (+ Teesside etc) in Durham. I’d also suggest splitting Yorkshire into North, South, East and West based on York, Sheffield, Hull and Leeds respectively (i.e. pretty much as now). On a separate note: Cornwall is far more English than Scotland or Wales; the vast majority of inhabitants see themselves as English; only a tiny minority are pushing for independence – roughly the same as those who’d like Orkney or Shetland to be independent from Scotland or (for example).

  • The point of regions should not be to create elegant-looking shapes on a map, or to give a nod to historical or even existing boundaries, but rather to group together people who have common economic and political interests based on geography.

  • There are obviously various debates to be had over the boundaries of devolved English authorities based on history, economic integration and popular perception. The exiting boundaries of the English EU voting regions might be another starting point.

    The big question remains though do we have any evidence the voters actually want this? There is certainly a perception too much power is concentrated in London and the SE in many parts of England. However, Labour’s plans dont seem like fully fledged federalism or even devolution across all of England. Rather a focus on regional hubs based on large cities. Looking back at Labour’s last attempt at English devolution is not encouraging. Any discussion on English devolution surely has to learn from the mistakes of Labour’s proposed regional assembly referendums in the North of England in 2004. In reality only one regional vote took place since the voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea in the first vote North-East by 78% . If devolution cannot garner support in the North-East of England what chance has it in areas like the so called south Midlands where there is a weak sense of regional identity? Perhaps, support for such ideas has increased with better understanding of how devolution has served Scotland. However, surely, the devolved powers to any English region are not going to come close to a constituent home country like Scotland? And that raises the other question. What powers are we are actually discussing devolving here? That is the practical issue many people want to know before approving another layer of elected politicians.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 27th Sep '14 - 2:49pm

    Please, please let us leave things as they are!

    Yes, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all need greater powers of self governance, but let us not see England as the poor cousins for this is simply not true.

    We are simply “Better together”!

  • @peter tyzack : “Arguably there is no need for the hazard of a referendum, the low turn-outs of recent years is mandate enough for action to be taken.”

    Why would you want to give people a democratic choice regarding the future of their governance when turnout was only 84% in the last such referendum? It’s clear from the Scottish vote nobody is bothered by this stuff so we should just impose it on people, top down! In fact, this point poses the question “why let people vote at all?”.

    This anti-democratic approach to forcing federalism upon the nation is another classic vote loser. The Cornish are already noticing the Lib Dems intention to impose a Cornish Assembly on the county, and this issue alone could ensure that we lose all of our MP’s down here. Even Andrew George’s parliamentary rebellions won’t save him from a policy that dictates peoples future governance, I would think very carefully before shouting about implementing changes that, at most, will be mandated by a small proportion of the electorate.

    I don’t understand why so many are so quick to push a future on to people without offering them any choice. If you’re going to radically change the way our democracy works it seems only right that we have a consider public debate on the matter. The Scottish turnout was because people realised the vote would genuinely affect them, perhaps we should offer people choices on this scale?

  • Devolution will only work if there are some federal regions with BIGGER populations than London and it’s commuter belt, and also at least 2.5 hours from London.
    There must be no English parliament as that would just entrench London’s domination over England.
    Taking the second map you could have:
    NORTHUMBRIA = Cheshire + Merseyside + Manchester + Yorkshire + North to Scottish border.
    MARCIA = Your South, West & East Midlands + Links.
    WESSEX = Bristol, Somerset, Glos, Wiltshire + Dorset, Devon & Cornwall.
    ANGLIA = Your East Anglia + Herts & Essex
    SOUTH EAST = Your Thames Valley + Hants + Sussex, Kent & Surrey
    GREATER LONDON

    These would be similar in size to Germany where most of the population live in BIG lände e.g. 10 million or more. Most are also a bit bigger than EU Constituencies.

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