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Counties, Non-metropolitan Districts and Unitary Authorities

In 1974 a two-tier administrative structure of (shire) counties and non-metropolitan districts was set up across the whole of England and Wales, except for the Isles of Scilly, Greater London and the six metropolitan counties. Council functions were divided according to the level at which they could be practised most efficiently. In consequence, counties took on functions including education, transport, strategic planning, fire services, consumer protection, refuse disposal, smallholdings, social services and libraries, whereas the districts had responsibility for local planning, housing, local highways, building, environmental health, refuse collection and cemeteries. Responsibility for recreation and cultural matters was divided between the two tiers.

Following the Local Government Reorganisation in the 1990s major changes were implemented to create administrations most appropriate to the needs of the area concerned. The key feature of this change was the introduction of unitary authorities, single-tier administrations with responsibility for all areas of local government. Between 1995 and 1998 these were established in a number of areas across the country, especially in medium-sized urban areas, whilst other areas retained a two-tier structure. The resulting geography is shown on the adjacent map.
There are currently 46 unitary authorities in England, and 34 shire counties split into 239 (non-metropolitan) districts. Note that this district total inludes the Isles of Scilly, which has a unitary council but is considered as a district of the county of 'Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly' for coding purposes. London and the metropolitan counties retain their own structure.
Counties, districts and unitary authorities are all built of electoral wards/divisions. Their boundaries are all subject to periodic review.
For lists of county, district and unitary authority names and codes, click here.
To view a map of all UK local authorities, including both counties and districts in the remaining two-tier administrations, click here.

Click on this extract for a full map of UK counties and unitary administrations.


This page last revised: Thursday, 14 March 2002

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