THE LEADER of Hampshire County Council has welcomed a St George’s Day initiative by the Government Minister for Communities and Local Government to authorise the use of traditional county names on road signs.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, announced today that local authorities will now be allowed to put up the names of traditional counties on boundary road signs.

Local councils have recently been granted the right to introduce the signs featuring county names such as Cumberland, Westmorland and Middlesex.

Mr Pickles said: “The tapestry of England's counties binds our nation together, and is interwoven with our cultural fabric - from our cricket to our ales.

"Previous Governments have tried to wipe the counties off the map, imposing bland administrative structures or alien euro-regions. But I believe we are stronger as a nation when we cherish and champion our local and traditional ties.

"This Government is proud to wave the flag of St George alongside both our county flags. Whatever one's class, colour or creed, we should have pride in our English identities within the United Kingdom's Union that binds us together."

Hampshire County Council leader, Roy Perry has welcomed the news to celebrate one of oldest named counties in Britain, saying: “I very much welcome Eric Pickles' action. It is important we help people retain a sense of identity and community, and the 'shires' of England are of great antiquity and permanence, and none more so than our county of Hampshire.

"We still have name signs for Hampshire but some counties have lost that right, and it is good that is being restored. The great challenge for the County Council today, is to take the very best of our past, modernise for the future and ensure we remain relevant in providing low-cost, high-value public services.”

He added: “I sometimes remind Ministers when they visit Hampshire’s headquarters in Winchester that there has been a Hampshire before there was an England, and the Great Hall in Winchester is there, ready and waiting, as a seat for an English Parliament.

“After all, in the Middle Ages, Parliaments often met in Winchester, and if Scotland is to get independence or yet more devolved power, the people of England deserve more say over issues that affect them. It is high time there was an English Parliament, at least with the powers of the devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales, let alone Scotland."