Councils forming combined authorities have accused the Department for Communities & Local Government of “silliness” and “kindergarten games” after being told they cannot use the word “region” in their names.
At least three of the four areas setting up the new authorities are embroiled in a row with the department, which has suggested changing their formal names before they are established on 1 April.
Roger Stone (Lab), leader of Rotherham MBC, said councils in the Sheffield city region had been asked to rename themselves as the Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster combined authority.
“I think it’s because Eric Pickles doesn’t like the word region, because it sounds too European,” he said.
“We’re insisting it be called the Sheffield city region because that’s what we all agreed on from the start of negotiations. And the DCLG’s alternative name would leave out North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Bolsover and Bassetlaw, which are all part of the combined authority.
“At the moment it’s like a tennis ball going back and forth. We’re insisting on the city region but DCLG wants it changed. It’s childish. It’s kindergarten games.”
Graham Burgess, chief executive of Wirral MBC, said the Liverpool city region was in a similar situation. DCLG officials have suggested a name change to the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral combined authority (HKLSSWCA).
“All six areas agreed on the name Liverpool City Region, but DCLG has refused to let us use the word region,” he said.
“So much for localism.”
Paul Watson (Lab), leader of Sunderland City Council, said he had been told DCLG officials wanted to prevent his area from using the name North East combined authority.
“They want to call it the Northumberland, Durham and Tyne and Wear combined authority which is a bit of a mouthful,” he said.
“It’s just silliness. I just want us to be left to get along with actually doing the work rather than having to spend time thinking about acronyms.”
A DCLG spokesman said: “A number of responses to the consultation requested a change of name, which is why we changed the legal name. If the new combined authority wants to use something snappier as shorthand, that’s a matter for them.”