- Districts of England
The map shows the 326 districts of England
Category Local government districts Location England Found in Counties Created by Local Government Act 1972 London Government Act 1963 Created mostly 1 April 1974 and 1 April 1965 some earlier (see text) Number 326 (as of 1 April 2009) Possible types Metropolitan (36) Non-metropolitan two-tier (201) Unitary authority (55) London borough (32) sui generis (2) Possible status City Royal borough Borough Populations 25,000–1.1 million
The districts of England are a level of subnational division of England used for the purposes of local government. As the structure of local government in England is not uniform, there are currently four principal types of district-level subdivision. There are a total of 326 districts made up of 36 metropolitan boroughs, 32 London boroughs, 201 non-metropolitan districts, 55 unitary authorities, as well as the City of London and the Isles of Scilly which are also districts, but do not correspond to any of these categories. Some districts are styled as boroughs, cities, or royal boroughs; these are purely honorific titles, and do not alter the status of the district. All boroughs and cities, and a few districts, are led by a mayor who in most cases is a ceremonial figure elected by the district council, but – after local government reform – is occasionally a directly elected mayor who makes most of the policy decisions instead of the council.
Before the introduction of districts, the basic unit of local government in England was the civil parish, while Hundreds were the only widely used administrative unit between the parish and the county in size. In 1834 parishes were grouped into Poor Law Unions, creating areas for administration of the Poor Law. These areas were later used for census registration and as the basis for sanitary provision. In 1894, based on these earlier subdivisions, the Local Government Act 1894 created urban districts and rural districts as sub-divisions of administrative counties, which had been created in 1889. Another reform in 1900 created 28 metropolitan boroughs as sub-divisions of the County of London.
The setting-down of the current structure of districts in England began in 1965, when Greater London and its 32 London boroughs were created. They are the oldest type of district still in use. In 1974, metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan counties (also known as "shire counties") were created across the rest of England and were split into metropolitan districts and non-metropolitan districts. The status of the London boroughs and metropolitan districts changed in 1986, when they absorbed the functions and some of the powers of the metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council which were abolished. In London power is now shared again, albeit on a different basis, with the Greater London Authority.
During the 1990s a further kind of district was created, the unitary authority, which combined the functions and status of county and district.
Metropolitan boroughs are a subdivision of a metropolitan county. These are similar to unitary authorities, as the metropolitan county councils were abolished in 1986. Most of the powers of the county councils were devolved to the districts but some services are run by joint boards and organisations. The districts typically have populations of 174,000 to 1.1 million.
Non-metropolitan district (shire district)
Non-metropolitan districts (also known as shire districts) are second-tier authorities, which share power with county councils. They are subdivisions of shire counties and the most common type of district. These districts typically have populations of 25,000 to 200,000.
In this two-tier system, county councils are responsible for some local services, such as education, social services, and roads, whilst district councils run other services, such as waste collection, local planning, and council housing.
The number of non-metropolitan districts has varied over time. Initially there were 296; after the creation of unitary authorities in the 1990s and late 2000s, their numbers were reduced to 201.
These are single-tier districts which are responsible for running all local services in their areas, combining both county and district functions. They were created in the mid-1990s out of non-metropolitan districts, and often cover large towns and cities as this is deemed to be more efficient than a two-tier structure. In addition, some of the smaller counties such as Rutland, Herefordshire and the Isle of Wight are unitary authorities. There are a total of 55 unitary authorities, including 9 introduced in 2009.
Unitary authorities are actually a slightly modified type of non-metropolitan district; most are established as individual counties containing a single district, with a district council but no county council. Berkshire is unusual, being a non-metropolitan county with no county council and six unitary authority districts. Cornwall, Durham, the Isle of Wight, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire were established as counties with a single district, but have non-metropolitan county councils with no district council. In practice, these function in the same way as other unitary authorities.
The London boroughs are sub-divisions of Greater London. They were established in 1965. Between 1965 and 1986 a two-tier structure of government existed in Greater London and the boroughs shared power with the Greater London Council (GLC). When the GLC was abolished in 1986 they gained similar status to the unitary authorities. In 2000 the Greater London Authority was established and a two-tier structure was restored, albeit with a change to the balance of powers and responsibilities.
- Cambridge is the only district to be entirely surrounded by another (South Cambridgeshire). There used to be three others – Bath was entirely surrounded by Wansdyke, Scunthorpe by Glanford and Hereford by South Herefordshire.
- Only one district, Stockton-on-Tees, is split for ceremonial purposes
- Several non-unitary districts are comparable in size to counties. For example, Tynedale was larger than Nottinghamshire.
- The only district boundary that is not vertical is that between the City of London and the London Borough of Southwark. This is because the City today controls the full spans of London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, but only half of the river underneath them.
- List of English districts
- List of English districts by population
- List of articles about local government in the United Kingdom
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