Borough status in the United Kingdom

Borough status in the United Kingdom

Borough status in the United Kingdom is granted by royal charter to local government districts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The status is purely honorary, and does not give any additional powers to the council or inhabitants of the district. In Scotland, similarly chartered communities were known as royal burghs, although the status is no longer granted.

Origins of borough status

Until the local government reforms of 1973 and 1974, boroughs were communities possessing charters of incorporation conferring considerable powers, and were governed by a municipal corporation headed by a mayor. The corporations had been reformed by legislation beginning in 1835 (1840 in Ireland). By the time of their abolition there were three types:
*County boroughs
*Municipal or non-county boroughs
*Rural boroughs

Many of the older boroughs could trace their origin to medieval charters or were boroughs by prescription, with Saxon origins. Most of the boroughs created after 1835 were new industrial, resort or suburban towns that had grown up after the industrial revolution. Borough corporations could also have the status of a city.

For pre-1974 boroughs, see Municipal Corporations Act 1835, Boroughs incorporated in England and Wales 1835 - 1882, Unreformed boroughs in England and Wales 1835 - 1886, Boroughs incorporated in England and Wales 1882 - 1974, Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840

Modern borough status

England and Wales

Outside Greater London, borough status is granted to metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts under the provisions of section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972. This section allows the council of a district to petition the monarch for a charter granting borough status. The resolution must have the support of at least two-thirds of the councillors. Having received the petition the monarch may, on the advice of the Privy Council grant a charter whereupon:
*The district becomes a borough
*The district council becomes the borough council
*The chairman and vice-chairman become entitled to the style mayor and deputy mayor of the borough, except in councils that have an elected mayor under the Local Government Act 2000.

Charters granted under the 1972 Act may allow the borough council to appoint "local officers of dignity" previously appointed by an abolished borough corporation. Examples include:
*Honorary Recorder: some borough and city councils have the right to appoint a circuit judge or recorder appointed under the Courts Act 1971 as honorary recorder. Usually this is the senior judge in the council's area.
*Sheriff: These are appointed in a number of boroughs and cities that were formerly counties corporate.

There is no obligation on the council to appoint persons to these positions.

In some boroughs the mayor has the additional title as "Admiral of the Port", recalling an historic jurisdiction. The Lord Mayor of Chester is Admiral of the Dee, the Mayor of Medway is Admiral of the River Medway, and the Mayors of Poole and Southampton are Admirals of those ports. Privileges or rights belonging to citizens or burgesses of a former borough can be transferred to the inhabitants of the new borough.

Borough councils are permitted to pass a resolution admitting "persons of distinction" and persons who have "rendered eminent service" to be an honorary freeman of the borough. This power has been used to grant freedom not only to individuals, but to units and ships of the armed forces.


Borough charters granted under section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972 to metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts of England The districts created in 1974 were abolished in 1996 by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994. The 1994 Act amended section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972, allowing for the new unitary county councils established by the Act to apply for a charter in a similar manner to the old district councils. On receiving a charter a county became a "county borough".

Welsh unitary authorities granted a charter in 1996 bestowing county borough status

Northern Ireland

Since 1973, Northern Ireland has been divided into twenty-six local government districts. Under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 districts can have borough status either by adopting the charter of a pre-1973 municipal or county borough, or by applying for a charter granting the status.

Northern Ireland Local Government Districts with Borough status

The number of districts is to be reduced to eleven in 2011. As of May 2008, no legislation has been passed regarding the status of the new districts. [ [ "Foster announces the future shape of local government", NI Executive] ]

ee also

*City status in the United Kingdom


External links

* [ Text of charter granted to Charnwood, May 15, 1974]
* [ Charters of Hereford]
* [ Minutes of Privy Councilheld on March 14, 2001, where approval was given for the grant of a charter to Telford and the Wrekin]
* [ Text of charter granted to West Devon, April 26, 1982]


*Local Government Act 1972
*Local Government (Wales) Act 1994
*"Whitaker's Almanac" 1975, 1986, 1995 editions
*"Local Government in England and Wales : A guide to the New System", HMSO, London 1974

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