|Category||Local authority districts|
|Number||56 (as of 2020)|
|Possible status||Coterminous Non-metropolitan county and Non-metropolitan district (50)|
District of Berkshire (6)
Unitary authorities of England are local authorities that are responsible for the provision of all local government services within a district. They are constituted under the Local Government Act 1992, which amended the Local Government Act 1972 to allow the existence of counties that do not have multiple districts. They typically allow large towns to have separate local authorities from the less urbanised parts of their counties and provide a single authority for small counties where division into districts would be impractical. Unitary authorities do not cover all of England. Most were established during the 1990s, though further tranches were created in 2009 and 2019–20. Unitary authorities have the powers and functions that are elsewhere separately administered by councils of non-metropolitan counties and the non-metropolitan districts within them.
The term "unitary authority" was first used in the Redcliffe-Maud Report in 1969 in its current sense of a local government authority which combines the functions of a county council and a district council.Strictly speaking, the term does not necessarily mean a single level of local government within an area, because in some cases there are also parish councils in the same area.
Although the term was not applied to them, county boroughs between 1889 and 1974 were effectively unitary authorities, that is, single-tier administrative units. Before 1889, local government authorities had different powers and functions, but from medieval times some cities and towns had a high degree of autonomy as counties corporate. Some smaller settlements also enjoyed some degree of autonomy from regular administration as boroughs or liberties.
The Local Government Act 1972 created areas for local government where large towns and their rural hinterlands were administered together. The concept of unitary units was abandoned with a two-tier arrangement of county and district councils in all areas of England, except the Isles of Scilly where the small size and distance from the mainland made it impractical. In 1986 a broadly unitary system of local government was introduced in the six metropolitan counties and Greater London, where the upper-tier authorities were abolished and their functions were split between central government, the borough councils and joint boards.
A review in the 1990s was initiated to select non-metropolitan areas where new unitary authorities could be created.The resulting structural changes were implemented between 1995 and 1998. Bristol, Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight and Rutland were established as counties of a single district; the district councils of Berkshire became unitary; the counties of Avon, Humberside and Cleveland were broken up to create several unitary authorities; and a number of districts were split off from their associated counties. The changes caused the ceremonial counties to be defined separately, as they had been before 1974. The review caused 46 unitary authorities to be created.
A further review was initiated in 2007 and was enacted in 2009. The review established Cornwall and Northumberland as counties of a single district; established unitary authorities in County Durham, Shropshire and Wiltshire covering the part of the county that was not already split off in the 1990s review; and divided the remainder of Bedfordshire and Cheshire into two unitary authorities. The review caused nine unitary authorities to be created.
In 2016, Oxfordshire County Council put forward a 'One Oxfordshire' proposal which would see Oxford City Council and the four other district councils in Oxfordshire abolished and replaced with a single unitary county council for Oxfordshire. In 2017, Oxford City Council voiced their opposition to the proposal. A decision on whether the proposal will go ahead was to have been announced in March 2017.[ citation needed ]
In 2017, it was proposed that two unitary authorities be formed to cover the ceremonial county of Dorset. One of the authorities would consist of the existing unitary authorities of Bournemouth, Poole and the non-metropolitan district of Christchurch, the other would be composed of the remainder of the county.In November 2017, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid stated that he was "minded to approve the proposals" and a final decision to implement the two unitary authority model was confirmed in February 2018. Statutory instruments for the creation of two unitary authorities, to be named Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and Dorset Council, have been made and shadow authorities for the new council areas were formed ahead of their creation on 1 April 2019.
Buckinghamshire County Council and the non-metropolitan districts of Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks, and Wycombe in Buckinghamshire were replaced by a single unitary authority known as Buckinghamshire Council on 1 April 2020. The existing unitary authority of Milton Keynes was not affected; from 1 April 2020, therefore, the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire has been composed of two unitary authorities.
In March 2018, an independent report commissioned by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, proposed structural changes to local government in Northamptonshire. These changes would see the existing county council and district councils abolished and two new unitary authorities created in their place.One authority would consist of the existing districts of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other authority would consist of Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough districts. This was confirmed in May 2019, with the new councils being created in April 2021.
Unitary authorities combine the powers and functions that are normally delivered separately by the councils of non-metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan districts. These functions are housing, waste management, waste collection, council tax collection, education, libraries, social services, transport, planning, consumer protection, licensing, cemeteries and crematoria. The breakdown of these services is as follows:
|Service||Non-metropolitan county||Non-metropolitan district||Unitary authority|
|Leisure and recreation|
Most unitary authorities are divided into a number of multiple member wards from which councillors are elected in the same way as in two-tier district council elections. The exceptions, which are divided into electoral divisions as in county council elections, are Cornwall, County Durham, the Isle of Wight, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire.
Most unitary authorities are legally defined as being coterminous non-metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan districts run by a single council. While it makes no difference, they can either be run by a county council that additionally has district powers and functions, or a district council that additionally has county powers and functions. If there is a county council, the district has no council, and vice versa. Districts can additionally have the status of borough or city, although this has no effect on their powers or functions.
|Unitary Authority||Council||Created||Run by||Ceremonial County|
|Bath and North East Somerset||Bath and North East Somerset Council||1996||District||Somerset|
|Bedford||Bedford Borough Council||2009||District||Bedfordshire|
|Blackburn with Darwen||Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council||1998||District||Lancashire|
|Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole||Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council||2019||District||Dorset|
|Bracknell Forest||Bracknell Forest Borough Council||1998||District||Berkshire|
|Brighton and Hove||Brighton and Hove City Council||1997||District||East Sussex|
|Bristol||Bristol City Council||1996||District||Bristol|
|Central Bedfordshire||Central Bedfordshire Council||2009||District||Bedfordshire|
|Cheshire East||Cheshire East Council||2009||District||Cheshire|
|Cheshire West and Chester||Cheshire West and Chester Council||2009||District||Cheshire|
|County Durham||Durham County Council||2009||County||County Durham|
|Darlington||Darlington Borough Council||1997||District||County Durham|
|Derby||Derby City Council||1997||District||Derbyshire|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||East Riding of Yorkshire Council||1996||District||East Riding of Yorkshire|
|Halton||Halton Borough Council||1998||District||Cheshire|
|Hartlepool||Hartlepool Borough Council||1996||District||County Durham|
|Isle of Wight||Isle of Wight Council||1995||County||Isle of Wight|
|Kingston upon Hull||Hull City Council||1996||District||East Riding of Yorkshire|
|Leicester||Leicester City Council||1997||District||Leicestershire|
|Luton||Luton Borough Council||1997||District||Bedfordshire|
|Middlesbrough||Middlesbrough Borough Council||1996||District||North Yorkshire|
|Milton Keynes||Milton Keynes Council||1997||District||Buckinghamshire|
|North East Lincolnshire||North East Lincolnshire Council||1996||District||Lincolnshire|
|North Lincolnshire||North Lincolnshire Council||1996||District||Lincolnshire|
|North Somerset||North Somerset Council||1996||District||Somerset|
|Northumberland||Northumberland County Council||2009||County||Northumberland|
|Nottingham||Nottingham City Council||1998||District||Nottinghamshire|
|Peterborough||Peterborough City Council||1998||District||Cambridgeshire|
|Plymouth||Plymouth City Council||1998||District||Devon|
|Portsmouth||Portsmouth City Council||1997||District||Hampshire|
|Reading||Reading Borough Council||1998||District||Berkshire|
|Redcar and Cleveland||Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council||1996||District||North Yorkshire|
|Rutland||Rutland County Council||1997||District||Rutland|
|Slough||Slough Borough Council||1998||District||Berkshire|
|Southampton||Southampton City Council||1997||District||Hampshire|
|Southend-on-Sea||Southend-on-Sea Borough Council||1998||District||Essex|
|South Gloucestershire||South Gloucestershire Council||1996||District||Gloucester|
|Stockton-on-Tees||Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council||1996||District||County Durham and North Yorkshire|
|Stoke-on-Trent||Stoke-on-Trent City Council||1998||District||Staffordshire|
|Swindon||Swindon Borough Council||1998||District||Wiltshire|
|Telford and Wrekin||Telford and Wrekin Borough Council||1998||District||Shropshire|
|Warrington||Warrington Borough Council||1998||District||Cheshire|
|West Berkshire||West Berkshire Council||1998||District||Berkshire|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council||1998||District||Berkshire|
|Wokingham||Wokingham Borough Council||1998||District||Berkshire|
|York||City of York Council||1996||District||North Yorkshire|
The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a sui generis single-tier authority, created in 1890 and since 1930 has held the "powers, duties and liabilities" of a county council.It thus is not a unitary authority as those are such authorities created under the Local Government Act 1992. The 36 metropolitan borough councils are also the sole elected local government units in their areas (except for parish councils in a few locations), but share strategic functions with joint boards and arrangements. On the other hand, the City of London Corporation and the 32 London borough councils, although they have a high degree of autonomy, share strategic functions with the directly elected Mayor of London and London Assembly.
Unitary authorities should not be confused with another formation in English local government, the combined authority.
The subdivisions of England constitute a hierarchy of administrative divisions and non-administrative ceremonial areas.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is a Royal Borough of Berkshire, in South East England. It is home to Windsor Castle, Eton College, Legoland Windsor and Ascot Racecourse. It is one of four boroughs entitled to be prefixed Royal and is one of six unitary authorities in its county, which has historic and ceremonial status.
The counties of England are areas used for different purposes, which include administrative, geographical, cultural and political demarcation. The term 'county' is defined in several ways and can apply to similar or the same areas used by each of these demarcation structures. These different types of county each have a more formal name but are commonly referred to just as 'counties'. The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform.
The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are areas of England to which lords-lieutenant are appointed. Legally, the areas in England, as well as in Wales and Scotland, are defined by the Lieutenancies Act 1997 as "counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies in Great Britain", in contrast to the areas used for local government. They are also informally known as "geographic counties", to distinguish them from other types of counties of England.
The Local Government Act 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed local government in England and Wales on 1 April 1974. It was one of the most significant Acts of Parliament to be passed by the Heath Government of 1970–74.
A non-metropolitan county, or colloquially, shire county, is a county-level entity in England that is not a metropolitan county. The counties typically have populations of 300,000 to 1.4 million. The term shire county is, however, an unofficial usage. Many of the non-metropolitan counties bear historic names and most, such as Wiltshire and Staffordshire, end in the suffix "-shire". Of the remainder, some counties had the "-shire" ending but have lost it over time, such as Devon and Somerset.
Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district in England. As created, they are sub-divisions of non-metropolitan counties in a two-tier arrangement. Non-metropolitan districts with borough status are known as boroughs, able to appoint a mayor and refer to itself as a borough council.
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and were also the counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies. Later changes in legislation during the 1980s and 1990s have allowed counties without county councils and 'unitary authority' counties of a single district. Counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies are now defined separately, based on the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.
Buckinghamshire County Council was the upper-tier local authority for the administrative county and later the non-metropolitan county of Buckinghamshire, in England, the United Kingdom established in 1889 following the Local Government Act 1888. The county council's offices were in Aylesbury.
The Local Government Commission for England was the body responsible for reviewing the structure of local government in England from 1992 to 2002. It was established under the Local Government Act 1992, replacing the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. The Commission could be ordered by the Secretary of State to undertake "structural reviews" in specified areas and recommend the creation of unitary authorities in the two-tier shire counties of England. The Commission, chaired by John Banham, conducted a review of all the non-metropolitan counties of England from 1993 to 1994, making various recommendations on their future.
Dorset County Council (DCC) was the county council for the county of Dorset in England. It provided the upper tier of local government, below which were district councils, and town and parish councils. The county council had 46 elected councillors and was based at County Hall in Dorchester. The council was abolished on 31 March 2019 as part of structural changes to local government in Dorset.
Milton Keynes Council is the local council of the Borough of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. The borough is divided into 19 wards, electing 57 councillors.
Cleveland was a county located in northern England. It was created in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, named after a common name for the area at the time, Cleveland, including land from Hartlepool to between Redcar and Whitby. The county was abolished in 1996.
Durham County Council is the local authority of the non-metropolitan County Durham in North East England, excluding the boroughs of Darlington, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees, which have their own unitary authority councils. Since 2009, it has been a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. From 1889 to 2009, it was a county council in a two-tier arrangement.
This page documents political party strengths in the United Kingdom's principal local authorities. The last major change to council compositions was the 2 May 2019 local elections, but changes in party representation arise frequently due to resignations, deaths, by-elections, co-options and changes of affiliation.
South Gloucestershire Council is the local authority of South Gloucestershire, a unitary authority in the South West of England region. As a unitary authority it has the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. It is administratively separate from the county of Gloucestershire.
Northampton Borough Council is the borough council and non-metropolitan district responsible for local government in the large town of Northampton in England. The leader and cabinet model of decision-making has been adopted by the council. It consists of 45 councillors, representing 33 wards in the town, overseen by a mayor, leader and cabinet. It is currently controlled by the Conservative Party and is currently led by Jonathan Nunn. The main council building is Northampton Guildhall.
Local elections in the United Kingdom are expected to be held on 6 May 2021 in English local councils and for thirteen directly elected mayors in England and 40 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales. There are also elections in the parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and London, the last in conjunction with the London mayoral election.
Dorset Council is a unitary local authority in England covering most of the ceremonial county of Dorset. It was created on 1 April 2019 to administer most of the area formerly administered by Dorset County Council, which was previously subdivided into the districts of Weymouth and Portland, West Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, and East Dorset, as well as Christchurch, which is now part of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
Structural changes to local government in England have taken place or will take place in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Ceremonial counties will not see any changes to their external boundaries, but in some cases their subdivisions will be altered.