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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 16:56 GMT
Five new cities creates row
The Harris Museum in Preston
Preston is the historic centre of Lancashire
Five towns have been given city status as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Preston in north west England, Newport in Wales, Stirling in Scotland, and Northern Ireland's Lisburn and Newry beat off competition from 37 other towns to win the much sought-after title.

But a Conservative MP for one of the towns that lost out accused ministers of a "political fix" over the choice of new cities.

These honours are sparingly bestowed as a mark of special distinction and the accolades were richly deserved by the winners

Lord Chancellor
In the Jubilee announcement, the City of Exeter was also granted permission to call its first citizen Lord Mayor.

Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, who made the announcement, said: "It was an extremely difficult competition to judge because all the towns in their own ways were exceptional.

"They all demonstrated a very positive attitude to Her Majesty's Jubilee."


He added: "These honours are sparingly bestowed as a mark of special distinction and the accolades were richly deserved by the winners."

One town from each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been expected to win city status as part of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne.

Entries came from 26 towns in England, six in Wales, four in Scotland and six in Northern Ireland.

But two were chosen from Northern Ireland after the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Lord Chancellor and the Queen agreed to make a special exception on this occasion.

City status winners:
Preston, England
Newport, Wales
Stirling, Scotland
Lisburn, Northern Ireland
Newry, Northern Ireland

Simon Burns, Tory MP for Chelmsford, which failed to win city status, suggested it was no coincidence that all the successful mainland towns had Labour MPs.

The same thing had happened when the last batch of new cities were created in 2000.

Mr Burns said: "I am saddened by the fact that it would seem to me that the government has reduced this to a political fix...

"Cynical observers could understand in December 2000, within months of a general election, they would pick towns that had marginal Labour constituencies in them.

"But with a general election probably at least three years away, one would have thought that in 2002 they could have been a little more generous."

Councils working on their applications were told three main factors would be taken into account: notable features, including regional or national significance, historical and Royal features and a "forward-looking attitude".

Lord Irvine said the Queen made her decision after taking advice from ministers.

Noble challenge

City status carries no special powers for the winners but it is deemed such an honour that only 17 were made during the 20th century.

Brighton and Hove, Inverness and Wolverhampton were the last towns to be granted city status when the award was made to mark the Millennium.

A total of 17 cities entered the separate competition to be made a Lord Mayoralty.

The award, which allows Exeter to call its mayor Lord Mayor, was last awarded in 1992, when Chester was honoured to mark the 40th anniversary of the Queen's accession.

Entrants were told a key factor was whether the city had a character and dignity of its own.

And the losers ...

English towns pipped at the post for city status were: Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Chelmsford, Colchester, Croydon, Doncaster, Dover, Greenwich, Guildford, Ipswich, Luton, Maidstone, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Reading, Shrewsbury and Atcham, Southend-on-Sea, Stockport, Swindon, Telford, Warrington and Wirral.

Welsh towns that missed out were: Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Newtown, St Asaph and Wrexham.

Ayr, Dumfries and Paisley were over-looked in Scotland, while Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Coleraine and Craigavon were the unlucky Irish entrants.

Bath, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chichester, Derby, Gloucester, Lancaster, Lincoln, St Albans, St David's, Salford, Southampton, Sunderland, Truro, Wolverhampton and Worcester were cities that missed out in the mayoralty competition.

See also:

14 Mar 02 | England
'Proud Preston' wins city status
13 Mar 02 | Scotland
Stirling effort 'shines through'
14 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Two NI towns awarded city status
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