TODAY marks the 50th anniversary of St Helens becoming part of the newly-formed metropolitan county of Merseyside.

April 1, 1974, saw major local government reform take place under the Local Government Act 1972, which divided much of England into newly-created counties.

The date may be one to raise the age-old debate in St Helens of which county the town should be attributed to, its historic Lancashire home or Merseyside, the creation of the 1974 Local Government Act which carved up the ancient counties for "administrative" purposes. 

The creation of Merseyside was decried by many who saw it as a threat to the town's identity, with the new county thought to be essentially synonymous with a 'Greater Liverpool' region.

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Merseyside County Council was to be abolished only 12 years after its formation in 1986, and it can be argued Merseyside does not exist. 

However, the name 'has remained in common usage in the region, especially in Liverpool and its surrounding hinterland where the identity has been embraced.

It is ubiquitously used on envelopes, and is the name of police and fire and rescue services, though many people in St Helens still remain proud to associate with their Lancastrian identity.

Advocates of the historic county can point out that the 1974 Government legislation itself stated: "The new county boundaries are administrative areas, and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change despite the different names adopted by the new administrative counties.”

And Lancashire Day, November 27, still sees the historic county's Red Rose flag proudly flown in recent years above St Helens town hall.

Wherever you stand on the never-ending debate, April 1, 1974 remains a key date in the history of St Helens.

It is also the day that saw the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens formed, which placed the town and satellite areas including Ranford, Haydock, Newton-le-Willows, Rainhill, Billinge and others under the same umbrella.