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Counties debacle

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Explaining the problem

There are currently in England and Wales three things called counties, all slightly different in geography (in places, wildly different).

Traditional counties have existed for centuries, although their borders have changed over time.

In 1888 a new type of county was created: the administrative county. These had boundaries which largely corresponded to those of the traditional counties, but removed many (though not all) of the smaller exclaves/enclaves and also created the County of London. These administrative counties had new powers, but their creation did not imply abolition of the traditional counties.

In the 60s and 70s the administrative counties underwent a number of changes, not the least of which was the creation of Metropolitan counties around major urban areas – as well that as of Avon, Cleveland, Cumbria, Humberside, and Huntingdon and Peterborough – merging parts or the whole of several earlier counties. Most of these have since disappeared under newer legislation, although Cumbria remains and Huntingdon and Peterborough was merged into Cambridgeshire. Berkshire also lost a large part of its land to Oxfordshire, the larger exclaves/enclaves were removed, and places like Bournemouth and Slough moved county, despite remaining attached for ceremonial purposes to their old one.

In the 90s, plans were under way to give larger towns and cities their own county. In the past (pre-1974) this was done by creating county boroughs, that were still a part of the administrative county that they were in, just not administered by them. What was planned in the 90s was that, for the most part, these places would become administrative counties in their own right, but would for the most part be termed unitary authorities (because they had only one council). What was needed was something to cover the larger geographic area for naming purposes (because "Bournemouth in the county of Bournemouth", for example, sounded silly) and what happened was that ceremonial counties or lieutenancy areas were created. These mostly covered the old administrative counties, though as some (Avon, Cleveland, Humberside) ceased to be, so their boundaries became (approximately) those of the traditional counties. Likewise, as well as reappearing on the map of administrative counties, Rutland (a small traditional county) became a ceremonial county in its own right.

What makes matters even more complicated is that some unitary authorities are administrative counties and some are not. Berkshire is made up of district-level unitary authorities under no overall county council. Likewise, the metropolitan boroughs are administrative counties without county councils: their borough councils function like county councils, but are not called that, while former county boroughs, such as Bournemouth, Derby, etc. are also full administrative counties.

Traditional Counties

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Ceremonial Counties

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Administrative Counties

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(Wikipedia discourages Trivia sections, but we don't.)

Bournemouth is in the county of Hampshire (traditionally), the county of Dorset (ceremonially), and the county of Bournemouth (administratively).

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