Redcliffe-Maud Report

The Redcliffe-Maud Report (Cmnd. 4040) was published in 1969 by the Royal Commission on Local Government in England, under the chairmanship of Lord Redcliffe-Maud. Although the commission's proposals were broadly accepted by the Labour government, they were set aside by the Conservative government elected in 1970.

Local government in England as proposed by the report
   Metropolitan area

Terms of reference and membership

The commission was appointed on 7 June 1966, with the following terms of reference:

" consider the structure of Local Government in England, outside Greater London, in relation to its existing functions; and to make recommendations for authorities and boundaries, and for functions and their division, having regard to the size and character of areas in which these can be most effectively exercised and the need to sustain a viable system of local democracy; and to report."[1]

The members of the commission were Redcliffe-Maud (chairman), John Eveleigh Bolton (vice-chairman), Derek Senior, Sir James William Francis Hill, Victor Grayson Hardie Feather, Arthur Hedley Marshall, Peter Mursell, John Laurence Longland, Reginald Charles Wallis, Thomas Dan Smith and Dame Evelyn Adelaide Sharp.[1][2]

Report findings

The proposed provinces of the Redcliffe-Maud Report

Broadly the report recommended the abolition of all existing county, county borough, borough, urban district and rural district councils, which had been created at the end of the 19th century, and replacing them with new unitary authorities. These new unitary authorities were largely based on major towns, which acted as regional employment, commercial, social and recreational centres and took into account local transport infrastructure and travel patterns.

There were to be 58 new unitary authorities and three metropolitan areas (Merseyside; South East Lancashire/North East Cheshire or 'Selnec'; and West Midlands), which were to be sub-divided into lower tier metropolitan districts. These new authorities, along with Greater London, were to be grouped into eight provinces, each with its own provincial council.

Division of functions

In arriving at their recommendations, the commissioners were guided by a number of principles which they had themselves devised. These included:

  • Town and country are interdependent, therefore the separate administration of urban areas and their rural hinterlands should cease.
  • "Physical environment services" should be in the hands of a single authority. Examples of these services included planning and transport. To provide these wide area services, the authority should have boundaries that reflected geographical patterns of population and movement and provided a coherent area of administration.
  • "Personal services" should likewise be administered by a single council. These included education, social services, health and housing. The optimum population range over which to provide these services was 250,000 to 1,000,000.
  • Wherever possible, both types of services should be in the hands of a single unitary authority.
  • Areas for the new authorities should be capable of being effectively and democratically administered by a single council.

Accordingly, the different categories of council would have the following powers and responsibilities:

  • Provincial councils: Drawing up of strategic development plans. They were to take over the functions of the existing regional economic planning councils.
  • Unitary area councils: Both physical environment and personal services
  • Metropolitan area councils: Planning, transport and general housing policy.
  • Metropolitan district councils: Education and personal social services.[3]

Local councils

It had originally been envisaged that parish councils should also be abolished, but the Secretary of the National Association of Parish Councils (NACP), Charles Arnold-Baker, convinced the commission that they should be preserved.

Derek Senior's memorandum of dissent

The commission was nearly unanimous, with some reservations as to the exact geographic details. One member of the commission, Derek Senior, dissented entirely from the proposals, and put forward his own in a memorandum of dissent (Cmnd. 4040-I), which was slightly larger than the report itself. He would have preferred a two-tier system, with 35 city-regions of varying size, along with 148 districts. These were to be further grouped into five provinces. At a lower level, there would be 'common councils', roughly equivalent to civil parish councils, which would also cover communities within large towns; special arrangements were to be made for the area surrounding Berwick-upon-Tweed. These proposals effectively ignored traditional boundaries, to a much greater extent than the Report itself did.


Immediately after the report was published, Prime Minister Harold Wilson said that he accepted the recommendations "in principle" and committed the government to "press ahead quickly" on the legislation necessary to implement it, later clarifying that legislation would probably follow in the 1970–71 or 1971–72 parliamentary session.[4] The Labour Party Government issued a white paper entitled "Reform of Local Government in England" (Cmnd 4276) in February 1970, broadly accepting the recommendations of the report. The Government had however added two new metropolitan areas: West Yorkshire (with the five Bradford/Leeds/Halifax/Huddersfield/Mid-Yorkshire unitaries as districts), and South Hampshire based on the Southampton and Portsmouth unitaries, with the Isle of Wight being a separate district.[5]

Observers felt that the Conservative Party, then in opposition, had no urgency in defining their position. The shadow spokesman Peter Walker did not commit himself but instead held a series of regional conferences to ascertain party grassroots opinion. Reports suggested these conferences were overwhelmingly hostile and the Conservative Party conference in 1969 passed a highly critical motion, while suggesting that some reform of local government was supported. Walker decided that a future Conservative government could not implement Redcliffe-Maud, but refused to disown the report completely.[6]

The Rural District Councils Association was immediately opposed to the proposals which would see their members subsumed in much larger authorities. They started a national campaign with the slogan "Don't Vote for R.E. Mote" (with Mr R.E. Mote depicted as an insensitive bureaucrat),[7] distributing material to all their members. The slogan was used on postal franking from the affected authorities. Swale Rural District Council was forced to opt out of the campaign due to the similarity of "R.E. Mote" with the local Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate R.D. Moate.[8] By coincidence, Moate had moved the motion opposing Redcliffe-Maud at the Conservative Party conference.[9]

New government

When the Conservatives won the 1970 general election, they did so on a manifesto committed to a two-tier system in local government.[10] In 1971 a further white paper entitled "Local Government in England: Government Proposals for Reorganisation" (Cmnd 4584) announced its intentions, which ultimately led to the 1974 re-organisation. Although the general plan of the report was abandoned, many of the specific innovations were carried over, such as the plan to associate Slough with Berkshire, and Bournemouth with Dorset.


In the actual 1974 re-organisation, the three metropolitan areas became metropolitan counties, though their area was greatly reduced. A further three were added, covering the Leeds/Bradford area (West Yorkshire), the Sheffield/Rotherham area (South Yorkshire) and the Tyneside area (Tyne and Wear). The concept of authorities based around Bristol (Avon), and Teesside (Cleveland) was also retained. In most areas though, the 1974 system was far more conservative and retained more traditional boundaries.

The situation of wholly two-tier government did not last. The county councils for the metropolitan counties were abolished in 1986 by Margaret Thatcher's government, making the metropolitan boroughs effectively into unitary authorities. A further set of reforms in the 1990s led to the re-establishment of many old county boroughs as unitary authorities, along with other areas.

In 2004 the Government put forward a proposal to introduce directly-elected regional assemblies in the three regions of Northern England, should referendums produce a 'yes' vote (in the event the first region voted 'no' overwhelmingly, and the other referendums were abandoned). The regional boundaries proposed were very similar to the three northern Redcliffe-Maud provinces. Associated with this reform would have been a move to wholly unitary local government in the affected regions. In the area of Cumbria and Lancashire, the proposals bore a striking resemblance to the ones in the Report.

Proposed unitary and metropolitan areas

Province Number Unitary / metropolitan area Metropolitan district Approximate extent
North East 1 Northumberland non-metropolitan Northumberland
2 Tyneside Tyne and Wear plus Seaham minus Sunderland
3 Durham ceremonial County Durham minus Easington and Seaham
4 Sunderland & East Durham Sunderland and Easington
5 Teesside former non-metropolitan county of Cleveland plus Whitby etc.
Yorkshire 6 York non-metropolitan North Yorkshire and York minus Harrogate, Craven, Whitby
7 Bradford Bradford, Craven
8 Leeds Leeds, Harrogate
9 Halifax Calderdale
10 Huddersfield Kirklees minus the north-eastern area around Batley and Dewsbury
11 Mid Yorkshire Wakefield plus bordering areas of Kirklees such as Batley and Dewsbury
12 Sheffield & South Yorkshire Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley plus the Dronfield area of Derbyshire
13 Doncaster Doncaster
14 North Humberside ceremonial county of East Riding of Yorkshire, small part of North Yorkshire
15 South Humberside North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire
North West 16 Cumberland & North Westmorland Carlisle, former Cumberland, area around Appleby in Westmorland
17 Furness & North Lancashire Barrow-in-Furness, South Lakeland and Lancaster
18 The Fylde Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre
19 Preston-Leyland-Chorley Preston, South Ribble, Chorley
20 Blackburn Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley
21 Burnley Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale
22 Merseyside Metropolitan Area Merseyside, plus the districts of West Lancashire, Halton, Ellesmere Port and Neston, Chester and part of Vale Royal.
23 Selnec Metropolitan Area Greater Manchester, plus the northern part of Cheshire.
West Midlands 24 Stoke & North Staffordshire Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire Moorlands, Stafford, East Staffordshire, Congleton and Crewe and Nantwich
25 West Midlands Metropolitan Area County of West Midlands, excluding Coventry, plus Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Tamworth, Litchfield, South Staffordshire, Cannock Chase and the area around Stafford.
26 Shropshire Shropshire (including Telford and Wrekin)
27 Hereford & South Worcestershire Herefordshire and southern Worcestershire, excluding the districts of Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove and Redditch
28 Coventry & Warwickshire Warwickshire including Coventry
East Midlands 29 Derby & Derbyshire Derbyshire minus Dronfield and Glossop plus Burton upon Trent
30 Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Nottinghamshire
31 Leicester & Leicestershire Leicestershire, and most of Rutland
32 Lincoln and Lincolnshire non-metropolitan county except for South Holland and the areas around Bourne and Stamford
South West 33 Cornwall Cornwall minus Saltash and area
34 Plymouth Plymouth, the southern half of West Devon, the western part of South Hams and the area around Saltash in Cornwall
35 Exeter & Devon Devon except the southern half of West Devon and the western part of South Hams
36 Somerset non-metropolitan county of Somerset except the area around Frome
37 Bristol & Bath the former county of Avon, plus the adjacent parts of Wiltshire and the area around Frome
38 North Gloucestershire the non-metropolitan county of Gloucestershire
39 Wiltshire ceremonial county of Wiltshire except the northern part of West Wiltshire and the western part of North Wiltshire
40 Bournemouth & Dorset the ceremonial county of Dorset except the area around Sherborne, plus the western half of New Forest
East Anglia 41 Peterborough – North Fens the districts of Peterborough, Fenland and South Holland, plus the areas around Bourne, Stamford, Oundle and Ramsey
42 Cambridge – South Fens the districts of Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire, plus the areas around Newmarket, Saffron Walden, Haverhill, Royston, Huntingdon and St. Ives
43 Norwich & Norfolk Norfolk, except a small area to the west, plus the district of Waveney
44 Ipswich, Suffolk & North East Essex Suffolk except the areas around Newmarket and Haverhill, plus the districts of Colchester, Tendring and the northern part of Braintree
South East 45 Oxford & Oxfordshire non-metropolitan Oxfordshire minus Henley-on-Thames, plus Brackley
46 Northampton & Northamptonshire non-metropolitan Northamptonshire minus the areas around Brackley and Oundle
47 Bedford & North Buckinghamshire Bedford and Milton Keynes, plus the areas around Buckingham and Ampthill
48 Mid-Buckinghamshire Chiltern and Wycombe plus the areas around Aylesbury and Tring
49 Luton & West Hertfordshire Dacorum except Tring, St Albans, Watford, Three Rivers, Hertsmere except Potters Bar, Luton and South Bedfordshire
50 East Hertfordshire Broxbourne, East Hertfordshire, Welwyn Hatfield, Stevenage, Harlow, North Hertfordshire except Royston, the western halves of Epping Forest and Uttlesford and the areas around Biggleswade and Sandy
51 Essex ceremonial county of Essex minus Colchester, Harlow and Tendring, the western areas of Epping Forest and Uttlesford and the area around Saffron Walden
52 Reading & Berkshire non-metropolitan Berkshire plus Henley and the southern part of Buckinghamshire
53 West Surrey Spelthorne, Elmbridge, Runnymede, Surrey Heath, Woking, Guildford, Waverley, Rushmoor, Hart and the northern part of East Hampshire
54 East Surrey Epsom and Ewell, Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead, Tandridge and Crawley
55 West Kent the western half of the current ceremonial county
56 Canterbury & East Kent the eastern half of the current ceremonial county
57 Southampton & South Hampshire the districts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Test Valley, the northern part of Winchester and the eastern part of New Forest
58 Portsmouth, South East Hampshire and Isle of Wight the Isle of Wight, the districts of Fareham, Gosport, Portsmouth, Havant and the southern parts of Winchester and East Hampshire
59 West Sussex Arun, Adur, Chichester, Horsham and Worthing
60 Brighton & Mid-Sussex Brighton and Hove, Mid Sussex and Lewes
61 East Sussex Eastbourne, Hastings, Rother and Wealden

Greater London was outside the scope of the report, having been reorganised in 1965 under the London Government Act 1963.


  1. "No. 44014". The London Gazette. 7 June 1966. pp. 6597–6598.
  2. "Authorities should have freedom to decide priorities". The Times. 12 June 1969.
  3. Wise, M J (December 1969). "Review: The Future of Local Government in England: The Redcliffe-Maud Report". The Geographical Journal. 135 (4): 583–587. doi:10.2307/1795107. JSTOR 1795107.
  4. Wood (1976) p.71
  5. "Action is on lines proposed by Redcliffe-Maud". The Times. 5 February 1970.
  6. Wood (1976) pp.74–5
  7. Wood (1976) p.78
  8. "Too near to be remote". The Times. 6 November 1969. p. 4.
  9. "Remote Clash (Times Diary)". The Times. 7 November 1969. p. 10.
  10. "1970 Conservative Party Manifesto". Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  • Wood, Bruce (1976). The process of local government reform 1966–74. London: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 0-04-350052-8.
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