Individuality and Uniqueness and Lots of Borders

This week, the politics-weary Coldwind brain is being asked, along with all the other ones in Chesterfield) to Have Its Say on whether it thinks Chesterfield should be administered by and become part of the devolved Sheffield City Region – a combined authority to be handed certain localised powers from central government.

So, with the fallout from the disastrous EU referendum still fluttering through my knackered psyche, I turn to Derbyshire County Council’s ten reasons why Chesterfield is better off sticking with Derbyshire. And I notice a certain… familiarity… in some of the cases being offered.

“Confusion, duplication, complications and more red tape. If some services are handed to a Sheffield City Region Mayor and combined authority, Chesterfield will have three separate councils (four if you live in Staveley) rather than two.”

Well, if Staveley already has more councils than the rest of north-east Derbyshire then something’s already wrong and should’ve been fixed by now. But what really strikes me is that this is the same argument made by EU Leave voters: having the EU on top of British lawmaking and regulation just makes things too complicated and bureaucratic.

“Major planning decisions for Chesterfield will be influenced by a Mayor in Sheffield.”

“Decisions that affect Britain are being made way away in Brussels!” they shouted. Yet with British representation in the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, we had as much clout as any other member state. (Actually disproportionately more, in practice.) Similarly, in this case we’re talking about a mayor ‘influencing’ decision-making that affects Chesterfield. But what difference does that make? As it stands our lives are ‘influenced’ by 650-odd people drawn from all over the UK, and largely steered by a woman from Eastbourne.

And that’s before considering the massive influence over our society that’s exerted by an incredibly wealthy Australian American and a rich man from Amos Grove in London.

(For reference, for those not familiar with UK geography, the middle of Sheffield is 16.6 km from the middle of Chesterfield. Hardly continents apart.)

“A postcode lottery for some services. Some services for Chesterfield residents may no longer be as good as in neighbouring areas.”

That’s been an intrinsic part of British governance for as long as I can remember. Chesterfield doesn’t get the same services as Bakewell. Which doesn’t get the same services as Glossop. Which doesn’t get the same services as Derby (mostly because, administratively speaking, Derby isn’t in Derbyshire anyway).

Hell, Chesterfield doesn’t get the same services as Staveley – which is all of 6 km away.

Oddly, this is almost a reversal of the anti-EU argument used in the referendum: we don’t want to be part of the EU because it’ll mean everyone having to be the same, and we want to be able to decide how we do things for ourselves!

Breaking areas up into smaller areas means things are going to fall out of sync. It’s inevitable. If we want individuality and uniqueness and lots of borders between people – which apparently we desperately do, which is why we’re having locally devolved powers in the first place – this is a consequence we just have to live with.

“It’s a leap in the dark − with no easy way back.”

But this is no argument for Brits, is it? We do leaps in the dark now. With gusto. It’s how we prefer to determine our future.

Sarcasm? Me?!

“No other council in the country has fully joined a combined authority outside their county border and there is lots of uncertainty about how it would work.”

Nations hadn’t joined the EU until they did. And then they figured stuff out and it all seems to work quite nicely. Of course, it wasn’t good enough for *some* countries, but you’ll always get some fussy ones, I guess…

“Changes to services may be bad news for people living in other parts of Derbyshire. If changes to some services in Chesterfield go ahead, it could mean people living outside the borough are worse off.”

Or it could mean they’re better off. “May be”, “could”… How about some actual data before we start assuming the worst? Oh, no – I forgot. We’re sick of experts, aren’t we?

“Chesterfield could be at the back of the queue for funding from Sheffield City Region. Chesterfield is better-off than most of Sheffield and South Yorkshire and so may be less of a priority for investment.”

Because we’re a healthier economy we shouldn’t have to pay money to be invested in poorer countries to bring them up to our standards! If they want to be rich, they should just get rich, like we had to!


Also, you said back of the ‘queue’, and not ‘line’, like they do in… um… well, it means you’ve been paid off by Theresa May! (Or something.)

“It could be the thin end of the wedge.”

This is literally a recognised logical fallacy all of its own:

“Other areas with elected mayors started with some services then took on more over time, so it is likely [weasel words?] more powers may be handed to a Sheffield City Region mayor in the future.[citation needed]

“Many council services are better in Derbyshire. This means Chesterfield will have to compete with areas with poorer services.”

Identify those services. As above, ‘many’ is a weasel word.

“Council tax in Chesterfield will pay for services across South Yorkshire.”

And council tax in Sheffield will pay for services in Chesterfield. You know: just like how the UK had to fund investment in Cyprus even as Cyprus was funding investment here. I pay my taxes to provide funding for services to support me and others. As long as everyone collectively benefits as they should from the funding, I don’t much care who my particular pounds are routed to. I’ll gladly pay for healthcare in Portsmouth and waste collection in Aberdeen – so long as someone in Liverpool or Wolverhampton or Giggleswick or Twatt is paying for healthcare and waste collection here.

If everyone collectively is not benefiting as they should, then that’s a fault for which I’d hold the authorities – whoever they are – responsible.

“At this stage it is not possible to say whether council tax will increase or decrease.”

Then don’t use it as an argument because, at this stage, it isn’t one.


In the end, the simple fact is that I’m too tired to bother about this. As a long-time Chesterfield resident, I really, truly, genuinely do not care. If Sheffield City Region will provide the services a council is supposed to provide for the taxes I pay then it makes no odds to me whatsoever.

I have had it up to here with quarrelling over lines on maps. How much time, energy, and vitriol we humans expend on enforcing totally arbitrary divisions between neighbouring people and places…

We have this photo now. We really don’t have any more excuses.

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