As Chairman of the Yorkshire Ridings Society you may think I would be delighted that a group of residents, ‘Yarm 4 Yorkshire’, successfully pressed Yarm Town Council to hold a referendum about whether or not Yarm should be in Yorkshire but to me it just seemed so unnecessary.
Yarm is already in Yorkshire legally and geographically. There is no question about it, no referendum was required.
What is going on here is not about allegiance to England's largest County it is about some residents not liking decisions taken by Labour controlled Stockton Borough Council, a Unitary Council, and the wish to be administered by Conservative controlled Hambleton District Council and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). The question of what will happen if they succeed and Hambleton Council or NYCC takes a decision that they don't like, which they inevitably will, has not yet been answered.
The poll took place on Tuesday 27th May 2014 24% of the Yarm electorate voted overwhelmingly in favour of Yorkshire with 89% 1465 voting 'Yes' and 11% 177 'No
On 22nd May 1986 a similar poll in Yarm voted 1675 'Yes' and 682 'No.' On that occasion 41.7% voted.
Also in 1986 nearby Guisborough, then in the now abolished County of Cleveland voted overwhelmingly 4950 to 953 in favour of a return Yorkshire.
In Loftus, Cleveland, however, the result was much closer. A 32.64% poll voted 1153 for Yorkshire and 1129 against. A majority of 24 in favour of Yorkshire, which was reported in the local press as a 'Yorks vote snub.'
The reason for this small majority was no doubt a lot to do with the campaign run by Loftus Labour Party who turned it into a choice between Labour and Tory, claiming 'a vote for North Yorkshire was a vote for Mrs Thatcher.'
Source – Michael Bradford The Fight For Yorkshire, Hutton Press 1988.
The 1972 Local Government Act, which came into force on 1st April 1974, put Yarm in a newly created County of Cleveland, under the administration of Cleveland County Council and the Borough of Stockton on Tees. It abolished North Riding County Council, under which Yarm had previously been administered, but it did not abolish the North Riding of Yorkshire. Government statements at the time and since confirm that the "changes were for local government purposes only. For all other purposes Yorkshire is still Yorkshire."
The 1992 Local Government Act, which came into force on 1st April 1996, abolished both Cleveland County Council and the County of Cleveland. It created a new Unitary Council of Stockton on Tees, which included Yarm. In addition to that new "Ceremonial" Counties were created which legally put Yarm in North Yorkshire for all cultural and ceremonial purposes.
This should be perfectly clear to people and there should be no question at all about Yarm being well and truly part of Yorkshire but there are two problems which muddy the waters and create confusion.
One is the Councillors and activists who see being part of Yorkshire as handing control to "Tory North Yorkshire." They refuse to see it simply as a question of geography - Yorkshire is from the River Tees to the River Humber, from the Pennines to the sea.
The other is the local media who have their readership catchment area that crosses the Tees so they look for a name that lumps us all together and Teesside fits the bill. It is so easy to turn it into an, is it Yorkshire, is it Teesside debate. The difference is Teesside is not a county Yorkshire is, end of argument.
Yarm's referendum result can be the catalyst for the powers that be alongside the River Tees to accept that south of the Tees we are part of Yorkshire for all cultural, ceremonial and sporting purposes. North of the Tees is County Durham.
It is perfectly legal and proper for the residents of Yarm, indeed all those living immediately south of the Tees, to use Yorkshire as part of their postal address; Councils can erect Yorkshire/Durham boundary signs on the bridges that cross the Tees; and mapmakers can include traditional county boundaries on maps along with local government areas and we can all celebrate Yorkshire Day on 1st August. That is how you show your pride in Yorkshire. It is not about who controls the Council.
Councillor Chris Abbott
Chairman of the Yorkshire Ridings Society