|Principal Areas of Wales |
Prif Ardaloedd Cymru (Welsh)
|Number||22 (as of 2021)|
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Since 1 April 1996, Wales has been divided into 22 single-tier principal areas (Welsh : prif ardaloedd), styled as counties or county boroughs (Welsh : sir or bwrdeistref sirol) [lower-alpha 1] for local government purposes.  The elected councils of these areas are responsible for the provision of all local government services, including education, social work, environmental protection, and most highways. Below these there are also (in most, but not all, parts of the principal areas) elected community councils to which responsibility for specific aspects of the application of local policy may be devolved. The last set of local elections in Wales took place in 2022, with the next due to take place in 2027.
The monarch appoints a lord lieutenant as a representative in each of the eight preserved counties of Wales, which are combinations of principal areas retained for ceremonial purposes.
Subdivisions of Wales created for such purposes as the organisation of the National Health Service and the provision of police and emergency services are made up of combinations of principal areas. For example, the Dyfed–Powys Police force operates in the area covered by the principal areas of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire as well as in Powys – the former three constituting the preserved county of Dyfed.
There are 22 principal areas in Wales. They came into being on 1 April 1996 by virtue of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 (1994 c. 19). Eleven are counties, including the cities of Cardiff and Swansea, and eleven are county boroughs (marked †), including the city of Newport.   
Locations of each council headquarters are indicated by yellow markers.
|Areas marked † are County Boroughs, while unmarked areas are Counties. Welsh-language forms are given in parentheses, where they differ from the English.|
The current names of certain unitary authority areas are different from those specified in the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994. The following changes took place, all with effect from 2 April 1996: 
Like councils throughout the UK, Welsh councils are made up of elected councillors. Exceptionally, because of political in-fighting and a history of poor performance, the executive functions of the Isle of Anglesey Council were temporarily taken over by commissioners appointed by the Welsh Government.  Elections planned for 2012 were delayed until 2013. 
Local government elections normally take place every four years, though the Wales Act 2017 prevented local government elections from taking place in the same year as elections to the Senedd (Welsh Parliament; Welsh : Senedd Cymru). Hence the Local Authorities (Change to the Year of Ordinary Elections (Wales) Order 2019 postponed the date of the May 2021 local elections to May 2022. 
For ceremonial purposes of Lieutenancy and Shrievalty, Wales is divided into eight preserved counties. These were based on the counties (created by the Local Government Act 1972) which were used for local government and other purposes between 1974 and 1996.
The historic counties of Wales are ancient subdivisions of Wales, used for various functions for several hundred years. Pembrokeshire was formed as a county palatine in 1138. In the south east, Norman advancement led to the creation of marcher lordships, such as Glamorgan, which served as semi-autonomous administrative divisions, although these were not counties in the true sense as they lacked the formal structure. Some towns within these areas did, however, receive charters which outlined rights and duties in much the same way as a borough. Counties in the strict sense first appeared with the establishment of Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire in the 1240s. In 1284 the Principality of Gwynedd was divided into three counties: Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire. Before the end of the century, Flintshire had also become a county, and thus nearly half the territory of Wales was under the rule of the English Crown. While the arrangement did not officially bring the marcher lordships in the South directly under the King's control, many such lordships were held by the King personally, although some remained under the semi-autonomous control of powerful local families. The formation of counties was completed under the Laws in Wales Act 1535, which created Montgomeryshire, Denbighshire, Radnorshire, Brecknockshire and Monmouthshire, many from existing marcher lordships now recreated as counties proper.
These 13 counties were the main administrative subdivisions of Wales from 1536 until the implementation in 1974 of the Local Government Act 1972, although the definition and role of the smaller county boroughs within the counties during that period saw considerable change, as it did across the United Kingdom.
At the lowest level of administrative subdivision in Wales are the communities, into which each principal area is subdivided. They may have elected community councils which perform a number of roles, such as providing local facilities, and representing their communities to larger local government bodies. Community councils are the equivalent of English parish councils. A community council may call itself a "town council" if it so wishes. The councils of three communities with city status – Bangor, St Asaph, and St Davids – are known as "city councils". Communities which are too small to have a council may have a community meeting instead: an example of direct democracy. The communities in the urban areas of the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport do not have community councils.   
There are four police forces in Wales. These are:
There are three fire and rescue services in Wales. The present Welsh fire services date from 1996. Each covers a number of principal areas. These are:
City regions are partnerships between local several authorities. As of April 2021, there are four statutory city region agreements in Wales:
The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 allowed for the formation of corporate joint committees made up of two or more principle areas. Each committee is made up the leaders of the principle councils within its areas and chairs of national park authorities. They must appoint a chief executive finance officer and monitoring officer.  Corporate joint committees have powers relating to economic well-being, strategic planning and the development of regional transport policies. 
In February 2021, four regional joint committees were created covering all of Wales:
For statistical purposes, Wales is divided into statistical regions by the UK's Office for National Statistics, using the International Territorial Level geocode standard since 2021. Prior to 2021, as part of the European Union and Eurostat, the system used was Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), with "UK" in any NUTS code replaced with "TL" for Territorial Level from 2021. Wales itself is a level 1 ITL region alongside Scotland, Northern Ireland and the 9 statistical regions of England, with the code for the Wales ITL 1 region being "TLL" ("UKL" under NUTS), which is subdivided as follows:
|ITL 1||Code||ITL 2||Code||ITL 3||Code|
|Wales||TLL||West Wales and The Valleys||TLL1||Isle of Anglesey||TLL11|
|Conwy and Denbighshire||TLL13|
|South West Wales (Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire)||TLL14|
|Central Valleys (Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff)||TLL15|
|Gwent Valleys (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen)||TLL16|
|Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot||TLL17|
|East Wales||TLL2||Monmouthshire and Newport||TLL21|
|Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan||TLL22|
|Flintshire and Wrexham||TLL23|
In April 2013, it was announced that a major review was to be undertaken into local government organisation in Wales, with a Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery being established, to be chaired by Sir Paul Williams. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "Since public sector budgets are likely to continue to tighten, and demand pressures grow, there is a clear need to examine how services can be sustained and standards of performance raised, so that people in Wales can continue to receive and influence the public services they need and value." 
The Commission reported on 20 January 2014. It recommended that the number of councils be reduced, through mergers rather than through boundary changes, from 22 to 10, 11 or 12; and suggested that the cost of merging the councils would be met through savings made within about two years. 
Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "This report addresses many issues that are critical at a time when the need for public services is outstripping the resources available to provide them. I have always been clear that the status quo is not an option. Change is inevitable and essential so that our public services can become more efficient, effective, accessible and responsive." Janet Finch-Saunders AM, shadow minister for local government, said: "What matters to the vast majority of hardworking families is not the intricate structures of local government, but knowing that services will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective way.... We believe that public services are best delivered locally so taxpayers can hold local representatives to account for what happens in their community." Rhodri Glyn Thomas, for Plaid Cymru, commented: "The weight of evidence presented to the Williams Commission shows that if the people of Wales are going to get the services they need and deserve then there has to be a radical improvement in the way public services are delivered." 
In response to recommendations made by the Williams Commission, the Welsh Government published a draft local government bill in November 2015.  The draft bill contained two proposals, one for eight local authorities and one for nine local authorities. The difference between the two proposals is related to North Wales (two or three local authorities). The bill did not propose names for the local authorities, only listing them by number as a combination of existing principal areas. Powys was not affected by either proposal. The changes were planned to take effect in April 2020. 
|Proposed local authority||Proposed area|
|Area 1||Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy|
|Area 2||Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham|
|Area 3||Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire|
|Area 4||Swansea, Neath Port Talbot|
|Area 5||Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil|
|Area 6||Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan|
|Area 7||Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen and Newport|
|Proposed local authority||Proposed area|
|Area 1||Anglesey, Gwynedd|
|Area 2||Conwy, Denbighshire|
|Area 3||Flintshire, Wrexham|
|Area 4||Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire|
|Area 5||Swansea, Neath Port Talbot|
|Area 6||Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil|
|Area 7||Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan|
|Area 8||Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen and Newport|
Following the 2016 assembly elections, First Minister Carwyn Jones announced that the proposals for local government reform would be taken "back to the drawing board" and that a new consensus on how to reform local government in Wales would be sought.  The merger plans were formally dropped in January 2017, when the Welsh Government instead began a consultation on wider reform of local governance arrangements. The number of councils are to remain as they currently are, unless two or more local authorities wish to pursue a voluntary merger. 
A white paper titled "Reforming Local Government: Resilient and Renewed" was published in January 2017. It proposed the formation of regional bodies to encourage better collaboration between existing local authorities and a possible change in the electoral system used in local elections from "first past the post" to the "Single transferable vote" system. 
A new green paper, "Strengthening Local Government: Delivering for People", was published in 2018.  The paper makes the case for a reduction of the number of local authorities from 22 to 10 and suggested three possible approaches, a system of voluntary mergers, a phased approach with authorities merging in either 2022 or 2026 or a comprehensive system of mergers to occur in 2022. 
|Proposed local authority||Proposed area|
|Area 1||Anglesey, Gwynedd|
|Area 2||Conwy, Denbighshire|
|Area 3||Flintshire, Wrexham|
|Area 5||Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire|
|Area 6||Swansea, Neath Port Talbot|
|Area 7||Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil|
|Area 8||Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan|
|Area 9||Caerphilly, Newport|
|Area 10||Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire, Torfaen|
A bill was introduced by the Welsh Government in November 2019 to reform local government in Wales. The bill contains provisions to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 for local elections in Wales and will extend the franchise to include eligible foreign nationals. It extends the term of local councillors from four years to five years. The bill will allow local councils to decide to continue to hold elections under first past the post system or to switch to the single transferable vote system. The bill does not include provisions to restructure local councils but does contain mechanisms that can allow for two or more authorities to merge on a voluntary basis. It also creates a framework for joint regional coordination between local authorities through the formation of "corporate joint committees".  The bill received Royal Assent in January 2021 and four corporate joint committees covering all of Wales, were established the following month by statutory instruments.  
There are seven cities in total in Wales, as determined by their individual awarding of city status. South Wales' largest settlements of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport have the status, as does North Wales' largest settlement Wrexham. The smaller communities of Bangor, St Davids and St Asaph also have the status. City status is granted by letters patent.
St Asaph, as the seat of a bishopric, was historically referred to as a city, and was described as such in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. The status was, however, not officially recognised for many years. When city status was restored to St Davids in 1994, St Asaph town council submitted a petition for the same purpose. The petition was refused as, unlike St Davids, there was no evidence of any charter or letters patent in the past conferring the status. Applications for city status in competitions in 2000 and 2002 were unsuccessful.  However, city status was finally granted to St Asaph in 2012 as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations:  St Asaph was selected "to recognise its wealth of history, its cultural contribution and its metropolitan status as a centre for technology, commerce and business". Wrexham was awarded city status as part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in September 2022.   
The Vale of Glamorgan, often referred to as The Vale, is a county borough in the south-east of Wales. It borders Bridgend County Borough to the west, Cardiff to the east, Rhondda Cynon Taf to the north, and the Bristol Channel to the south. With an economy based largely on agriculture and chemicals, it is the southernmost unitary authority in Wales. Attractions include Barry Island Pleasure Park, the Barry Tourist Railway, Medieval wall paintings in St Cadoc's Church, Llancarfan, Porthkerry Park, St Donat's Castle, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Cosmeston Medieval Village. The largest town is Barry. Other towns include Penarth, Llantwit Major, and Cowbridge. There are many villages in the county borough.
There are five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in Wales. AONBs are areas of countryside that have been designated for statutory protection, due to their significant landscape value, by initially the Government of the United Kingdom and later Welsh devolved bodies. Of the current five areas designated, four are wholly in Wales, with another spanning the Wales-England border, and in total AONBs account for 4% of Wales' land area.
North Wales is a region of Wales, encompassing its northernmost areas. It borders Mid Wales to the south, England to the east, and the Irish Sea to the north and west. The area is highly mountainous and rural, with Snowdonia National Park and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, known for its mountains, waterfalls and trails, wholly within the region. Its population is concentrated in the north-east and northern coastal areas, with significant Welsh-speaking populations in its western and rural areas. North Wales is imprecisely defined, lacking any exact definition or administrative structure. It is commonly defined administratively as its six most northern principal areas, but other definitions exist, with Montgomeryshire historically considered to be part of the region.
A community is a division of land in Wales that forms the lowest tier of local government in Wales. Welsh communities are analogous to civil parishes in England. There are 878 communities in Wales.
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and whose physical geography is characterised by a varied coastline and a largely upland interior. It is bordered by England to its east, the Irish Sea to its north and west, and the Bristol Channel to its south. It has a total area of 2,064,100 hectares and is about 170 mi (274 km) from north to south and at least 60 mi (97 km) wide. It comprises 8.35 percent of the land of the United Kingdom. It has a number of offshore islands, by far the largest of which is Anglesey. The mainland coastline, including Anglesey, is about 1,680 mi (2,704 km) in length. As of 2014, Wales had a population of about 3,092,000; Cardiff is the capital and largest city and is situated in the urbanised area of South East Wales.
Politics in Wales forms a distinctive polity in the wider politics of the United Kingdom, with Wales as one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom (UK).
The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which amended the Local Government Act 1972 to create the current local government structure in Wales of 22 unitary authority areas, referred to as principal areas in the Act, and abolished the previous two-tier structure of counties and districts. It came into effect on 1 April 1996.
Transport in Wales is heavily influenced by the country's geography. Wales is predominantly hilly or mountainous, and the main settlements lie on the coasts of north and south Wales, while mid Wales and west Wales are lightly populated. The main transport corridors are east–west routes, many continuing eastwards into England.
Cardiff Council, formally the County Council of the City and County of Cardiff is the governing body for Cardiff, one of the Principal Areas of Wales. The principal area and its council were established in 1996 to replace the previous Cardiff City Council which had been a lower-tier authority within South Glamorgan. Cardiff Council consists of 79 councillors, representing 28 electoral wards.
The Local Government Commission for Wales was established by the Local Government Act 1958 to review the organisation of local government in Wales and to make recommendations for its reform. It delivered its report in 1963 and was dissolved in 1967. Its recommendations were not carried out.
There are four types of elections in Wales: elections to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, elections to the devolved Senedd, local elections to the 22 principal areas, and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, in addition to by-elections for each aforementioned election. Elections are held on Election Day, which is conventionally a Thursday. Since the passing of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 for UK general elections, all four types of elections are held after fixed periods, though early elections to the UK parliament can occur in certain situations, with Senedd elections being postponed to avoid elections to the UK parliament and Senedd coinciding with each other.
The North Wales Fire and Rescue Service is the fire and rescue service covering the principal areas of Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Wrexham in the north of Wales. With service coverage in north-west Wales being predominantly rural. The NWFRS is headquartered in St Asaph, Denbighshire, Wales.
The history of local government in Wales in a recognisably modern form emerged during the late 19th century. Administrative counties and county boroughs were first established in Wales in 1889. Urban and rural districts were formed in 1894. These were replaced in 1974 by a two-tier authority system across the country comprising eight counties and, within them, thirty-seven districts. This system was itself replaced by the introduction of 22 single-tier authorities in 1996.
In Wales, the office of Mayor or Lord Mayor had long been ceremonial posts, with little or no duties attached to it. Traditionally mayors have been elected by town, borough and city councils. Since 2000, councils can decide to have directly elected mayors with extensive powers if such a proposal is approved in a local referendum.
The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the United Kingdom.
Michael John Hedges MS is a Welsh Labour politician, who been the Member of the Senedd (MS) for the constituency of Swansea East since the 2011 Senedd election.
The 2017 Welsh local elections were held on 4 May 2017 to elect members of all 22 local authorities in Wales. This included the Isle of Anglesey, which was previously up for election in 2013 due to having its elections delayed for a year. Community council elections also took place on the same day. These local elections were held as part of the 2017 local elections in the United Kingdom. Apart from Anglesey, the last elections were held in 2012. Normally these elections take place every four years, but the 2017 elections were postponed for a year in order to avoid clashing with the 2016 Welsh Assembly election, which itself had been postponed by a year to avoid clashing with the 2015 general election.
Wales has traditionally been divided into a number of ambiguous and undefined areas described as "regions", reflecting historical, geographical, administrative, cultural and electoral boundaries within the country. Presently, the most common form of division of Wales into "regions" has been using cardinal and intercardinal references, north or south-west for example. None of the variously described "regions" have official status or defined boundaries, there is neither a fixed number of regions. Various organisations use different regions and combinations of regions for their individual purposes. This includes devolved institutions, such as Visit Wales, Natural Resources Wales, and the Welsh Government itself, using different sets of Wales' regions. Wales is most commonly sub-divided into between two and four regions, with a North–South divide, and North, Mid, South East and South West division being common. This article will list the various terms applied to be the "regions of Wales" and the regions used by various organisations.
Regional economy in Wales is centred on four regional economic boards in Wales. Each board oversees a city or growth deal, signed between 2016 and 2022, lasting 10–15 years. Two of the deals are city deals signed and proposed by their respective economic boards, and their areas are described as "city regions"; the Cardiff Capital Region and Swansea Bay City Region. Whereas in North Wales, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board negotiated a North Wales growth deal signed in 2020, and in Mid Wales, the Growing Mid Wales Partnership, led negotiations for a Mid Wales growth deal signed in 2022. The programmes are based on the City deal and Growth deal initiatives set up by the Coalition UK Government in 2012, to promote the decentralisation of the UK economy, by stimulating local economic growth.