Redcliffe-Maud Report

Redcliffe-Maud Report

The Redcliffe-Maud Report (Cmnd. 4040) is the name generally given to the report published by the Royal Commission on Local Government in England 1966-1969 under the chairmanship of Lord Redcliffe-Maud.

The commission was given the task of looking at the then structure of local government in England and making recommendations for change. It excluded Greater London, which had been re-organised in 1965.

The members of the Commission were Redcliffe-Maud (chair), J. E. Bolton (vice-chair), Derek Senior, Francis Hill, Victor Feather, A. H. Marshall, P. Mursell, J. L. Longland, R. C. Wallis. T. Dan Smith and Dame Evelyn Sharp. [Authorities should have freedom to decide priorities. The Times. June 12, 1969.]

The report

Broadly the report recommended the abolition of all the 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. In order 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. [ [ M.J. Wise, "Review: The Future of Local Government in England: The Redcliffe-Maud Report", The Geographical Journal, Vol. 135, No. 4. (Dec., 1969), pp. 583-587 at JSTOR, accessed November 28, 2007] ]

Political reaction

The then Labour Party Government broadly accepted the recommendations of the report, and put out a White Paper (Reform of Local Government in England, Command 4276) in February 1970. This 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. ["Action is on lines proposed by Redcliffe-Maud". The Times. February 5, 1970.]

The Conservative Party won the 1970 general election. The new Government was committed to a two-tier system, and in 1971 announced its intentions, which 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.


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.


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 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 bear a striking resemblance to the ones in the Report.

Proposed Unitary Areas

'* Greater London (as at present)

Proposed Metropolitan Areas


(Merseyside, plus the districts of West Lancashire, Halton, Ellesmere Port and Neston, Chester and part of Vale Royal)

*Southport-Crosby (the districts of West Lancashire and Sefton, except Bootle County Borough)
*Liverpool (the district of Liverpool, the western part of Knowsley and Bootle County Borough)
*St Helens-Widnes (the districts of St Helens, Halton and the eastern part of Knowsley)
*South Merseyside (The districts of Wirral, Ellesmere Port and Neston, Chester and part of Vale Royal)


(South East Lancashire - North East Cheshire)(Greater Manchester, plus the northern part of Cheshire)

*Wigan-Leigh (district of Wigan)
*Bolton (district of Bolton, plus part of Blackburn with Darwen)
*Bury-Rochdale (districts of Bury and Rochdale)
*Warrington (district of Warrington and part of Vale Royal)
*Manchester (district of Manchester, part of Salford, part of Trafford)
*Oldham (district of Oldham)
*Altrincham-Northwich (southern part of district of Trafford, Vale Royal and western part of Macclesfield)
*Stockport (district of Stockport, eastern part of Macclesfield and adjacent areas of Derbyshire)
*Ashton-Hyde (district of Tameside, plus areas around Glossop)

West Midlands

(County of West Midlands, excluding Coventry, plus Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Tamworth, Lichfield, South Staffordshire, Cannock Chase and the area around Stafford.

*Mid-Staffordshire ( the districts of Tamworth, Lichfield, Cannock Chase, the northern part of South Staffordshire and the area around Stafford)
*Wolverhampton (as current district, plus the middle part of South Staffordshire)
*Walsall (as current district)
*Dudley (as current district except Halesowen, plus southern part of South Staffordshire
*West Bromwich-Warley (the district of Sandwell plus Halesowen)
*Birmingham (as current district plus Solihull)
*North Worcestershire (the districts of Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove, Redditch)


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