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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
West: Avon calling
Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey
Political Editor
BBC West

Sign post
South Gloucestershire sign carves out part of Bristol

It became a four letter word. When they killed it, they turned the Committee Rooms into yuppie flats. But now it's back ... Avon.

There were few who mourned its passing when the 1997 local government act replaced it with South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset and Bristol City Council.

But this week, the new Local Government Secretary of State breathed new life into Avon.

City regions

"We call them City Regions" said Ruth Kelly.

"If cities can work with the inner city, and the suburban areas, if they can find a real vision for their cities, we know they can be stronger."

The minister listed a few of Britain's big cities - and gave them some informal international twins.

"A Barcelona of the North West, a Milan of the Midlands, a Seattle of the West". Her point is that cities now drive international trade, not countries.

And when people in Seattle say Bristol, they have no idea that Filton - where we make our Airbus parts - is actually in South Gloucestershire. Local opposition

Ruth Kelly MP
Will Ruth Kelly bring back Avon?

So Ruth Kelly wants city regions to work together. But how? Will she bring back Avon? Will an Elected Mayor run it?

In Bath, they have no doubts. "Leave Bath alone" says a builder from Surrey, dozing on the Circus grass, "it's lovely how it is."

"We are an international heritage city - don't make Bath part of Bristol" says a corporate head-hunter lounging on his doorstep.

Even in South Gloucestershire, which hardly shares Bath's historic identity, there is opposition.

On Kingswood High St they are just yards from the border with Bristol City Council - and they're quite happy to stay there.

"Bristol is too expensive" a retired couple tell me, "We're much happier here thanks."

Business West

Perhaps the most interesting group are the business people. They, after all, are the ones who bring in the money from abroad.

They think so much like a city region already that the Bristol Chamber of Commerce is now "Business West", which spreads from Weston to Bath. So do they want to move the borders?

"If you start playing games you lose" says Colin Skellett, President of Business West.

"We have what we have and we must work with that. We are competing with the rest of the UK, the rest of the country, and we must not be distracted by the administration."

Colin Skellett, President of Business West
Colin Skellett: Concerns over movement of boundaries

Minister shares realism

Ruth Kelly shares his realism. When the Local Government White Paper comes out in the Autumn, you can bet there will be no mention of re-drawing council borders.

Yet neighbouring councils don't always agree, so how can she ensure these "city regions" actually mean something?

What do you think? Should we bring back Avon? If so, what would you call it? And if not, how can we make "Bristol" a world player?

We debate this live on the Politics Show live, and you can email us to join the debate.

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