Subdivisions of England

Subdivisions of England

The subdivisions of England consists of as many as four levels of subnational division and at some levels there are a variety of types of administrative entity. They have been created for the purposes of local government in England.

Some units combine the functions of two levels of local government, for example the Greater London administrative area is also the London region and unitary authorities are often counted as both county and district level entities.

Region level

At the top level England is divided into nine regions each containing one or more county-level entities. The regions were created in 1994 and since the 1999 Euro-elections have been used as England's European Parliament constituencies. All have the same status. However London is the only region with any substantial devolved power in the form of an elected mayor and the Greater London Authority. The regions also vary greatly in size, both in their areas covered and their populations.

Note that the metropolitan districts are effectively unitary authorities (see below), although the metropolitan counties still legally exist. The London boroughs and City of London are also effectively unitary authorities, although the Greater London Authority retains a limited level of administration.

Unitary authorities

Some, mostly urban, parts of England do not fall into the two-tier county/district administrative structure. Instead they are covered by a single council area, commonly (but not officially) known as a unitary authority.

The unitary authorities were created in 1995, mostly from districts that were separated from their county. In some cases, borders were altered or districts were combined during this reorganisation. Uniquely, the Isle of Wight authority was created from a county council whose districts were abolished.

All of the districts within the county of Berkshire are unitary authorities, although Berkshire still legally exists as a county despite not having a county council. Berkshire's unitary authorities are marked with asterisks (*) in the table below.

The Isles of Scilly have a "sui generis" local authority, the Isles of Scilly Council, which is similar to a unitary authority found in the rest of England.

The metropolitan districts, London boroughs, and City of London are effectively also unitary authorities, although legally they are still within a two-tier structure.

Parish level

The civil parish is the most local unit of government in England. There are no civil parishes in Greater London. Not all of the rest of England is parished, though the number of parishes and total area parished is growing.

Changes proposed in 2004

A referendum was held in North East England on November 4, 2004 to see whether people there wished to have an elected regional assembly. As part of the referendum, voters were asked to choose which system of unitary authorities they would like to see in the existing county council areas if the regional assembly was approved. In the event, the vote in the North East was a decisive "no", making the proposed local government changes moot. Similar referendums in North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber were postponed indefinitely: on 8 November 2004 the Deputy Prime Minister announced "I will not therefore be bringing forward orders for referendums in either the North West, or Yorkshire and the Humber". [ [ Statement by Deputy Prime Minister] ]

Most of the proposed changes would have required no change in the county level entities, as they could have been implemented by merging districts and abolishing county councils. Where borders were crossed, however, changes would have been needed. This would have impacted Lancashire, where various parts were proposed for combination with Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen (both unitary authorities), Sefton (in Merseyside), Wigan (in Greater Manchester), and southern Cumbria; it also affected one proposal for North Yorkshire, which would have merged the district of Selby with the East Riding of Yorkshire. Few of the boundary changes would have involved creating new borders - only the proposals to combine Blackpool with parts of Wyre, and to split West Lancashire between Wigan and Sefton would have done this.

2009 structural changes

In 2006, the white paper "Strong and Prosperous Communities" invited local authorities in England to submit their own consensus-based proposals for new unitary authority arrangements, to be submitted before 25 January 2007. Selected submissions went to a public consultation from March until June, with successful proposals announced in July. Elections to the new authorities took place in 2008, with them taking up their powers on 1 April 2009.cite news|url=|publisher=Department for Communities and Local Government|title=Invitation to councils in England|date=October 26, 2006]

The new unitary authorities are; Central Bedfordshire, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Shropshire, County Durham and Northumberland.

Notes and references

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