Because following the local government changes of the 1960s and 1970s, many map-makers, publishers of guide books and gazetteers etc. and, increasingly, sections of the media began to use the new local government areas as a geographical framework. The absurdity of this policy is now clear to see. We have now had two major reorganisations of local government in England, Wales and Scotland in the last 30 years. To tie our concept of geography to local government areas is to condemn the British people to a continually shifting geographical framework. Can we all seriously be expected to re-learn our whole notion of where places are every decade or so ? Are we also expected to change our perceptions of community and identity on a similar timescale ?
Local authority areas were created to facilitate the provision of certain services to the community. They were not designed to play a wider geographical or cultural role. The Government never directed or recommended that they be so used. After all they are only one type of a number of very important administrative areas which assist in the provision of public services. The police areas and the areas of the NHS are arguably just as important to the public as local authority areas. Yet no-one would suggest erecting road signs marking their boundaries or producing a tourist guide book to them. Nor should local authority areas be so used.
The present set of local authority areas present some particular problems to those who would attempt to use them as a geographical framework. The names and areas of many of them are unfamiliar to most of the public. To use them within geographical descriptions therefore conveys no information. Many of the unitary authority areas have “borrowed” the name of a town or city within the local authority area. This leads to nonsense if one tries to use the unitary area within a geographical description. Consider the unitary authority area of “Caerphilly”. The town of Caerphilly lies within this. How does one describe where Caerphilly is ? “Caerphilly in Caerphilly” ! How does one describe where other towns in the unitary authority area are ? One can’t say “New Tredegar in Caerphilly” since New Tredegar is a totally separate town 30 miles away from the town of Caerphilly. Similarly to describe Maidenhead as being in “Windsor and Maidenhead” scarcely conveys any information.
A more detailed consideration of these points can be found in The problem of “county confusion” – and how to resolve it.