Because of the differences in legislation between the states, the exact definition of a city council varies. However, it is generally only those local government areas which have been specifically granted city status (usually on a basis of population) that are entitled to refer to themselves as cities. The official title is "Corporation of the City of ______" or similar.
Some of the urban areas of Australia are governed mostly by a single entity (see Brisbane and other Queensland cities), while others may be controlled by a multitude of much smaller city councils. Also some significant urban areas can be under the jurisdiction of otherwise rural local governments. Periodic re-alignments of boundaries attempt to rationalize these situations and adjust the deployment of assets and resources.
The 2001 Local Government Act restyled the five county boroughs of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick as city councils, with the same status in law as county councils. The 2014 Local Government Act Merged Limerick City and Limerick County Council together and Waterford City and Waterford County Council together effectively abolishing Waterford and Limerick City council, While Limerick and Waterford maintain City Status.
- Alor Setar City Council
- Ipoh City Council
- Iskandar Puteri City Council
- Johor Bahru City Council
- Kota Kinabalu City Hall
- Kuala Lumpur City Hall
- Kuala Terengganu City Council
- Kuching North City Hall
- Kuching South City Council
- Melaka City Council
- Miri City Council
- Penang Island City Council
- Petaling Jaya City Council
- Shah Alam City Council
Local councils in New Zealand do vary in structure, but are overseen by the government department Local Government New Zealand. For many decades until the local government reforms of 1989, a borough with more than 20,000 people could be proclaimed a city. The boundaries of councils tended to follow the edge of the built-up area, so little distinction was made between the urban area and the local government area.
New Zealand's local government structural arrangements were significantly reformed by the Local Government Commission in 1989 when approximately 700 councils and special purpose bodies were amalgamated to create 87 new local authorities.
As a result, the term "city" began to take on two meanings.
The word "city" came to be used in a less formal sense to describe major urban areas independent of local body boundaries. This informal usage is jealously guarded. Gisborne, for example, adamantly described itself as the first city in the world to see the new millennium. Gisborne is administered by a district council, but its status as a city is not generally disputed.
Under the current law the minimum population for a new city is 50,000.
In the UK, not all cities have city councils, and the status and functions of city councils vary.
A city council may be:
- The council of a metropolitan district that has been granted city status.
- The council of a non-metropolitan district that has been granted city status. Some of these councils are unitary authorities and some share functions with county councils.
- A parish council that has been granted city status. These councils have limited functions.
- The council of a London borough that has been granted city status (of which there is only one example: Westminster City Council), or the City of London Corporation.
A city council may be:
The three cities which are not council areas have no city council.
United States and Canada
City councils and town boards generally consist of several (usually somewhere between 5 and 50) elected aldermen or councillors. In the United States, members of city councils are typically called council member, council man, council woman, councilman, or councilwoman, while in Canada they are typically called councillor.
In some cities, the mayor is a voting member of the council who serves as chairman; in others, the mayor is the city's independent chief executive (or strong mayor) with veto power over city council legislation. In larger cities the council may elect other executive positions as well, such as a council president and speaker.
The role of the mayor in the council varies depending on whether or not the city uses council–manager government or mayor–council government, and by the nature of the statutory authority given to it by state law, city charter, or municipal ordinance.
There is also a mayor pro tem councilmember. In cities where the council elects the mayor for one year at a time, the mayor pro tem is in line to become the mayor in the next year. In cities where the mayor is elected by the city's voters, the mayor pro tem serves as acting mayor in the absence of the mayor. This position is also known as vice mayor.
In some cities a different name for the municipal legislature is used. In San Francisco, for example, it is known as the Board of Supervisors; San Francisco is a consolidated city-county and the California constitution requires each county to have a Board of Supervisors.
Bicameral city councils were common in the United States until the 20th century, when many were abolished for cost cutting purposes and replaced with unicameral legislatures. Typically, bicameral city councils were divided into Common Councils and Boards of Aldermen, to reflect the structure of federal and state legislatures. The city of Everett, Massachusetts was the last to abolish its own bicameral city council (a seven-member Board of Aldermen and an 18-member Common Council) and replace it with an 11-member City Council, doing so with a November 8, 2011 referendum which took effect in 2014.
- Philadelphia City Council was bicameral from 1789 to 1919, when it included a 149-member Common Council and 41-member Select Council, making it the largest municipal legislature in the United States.
- Worcester City Council - 11-member Board of Aldermen; 30-member Common Council (1848–1948)
- Seattle City Council - nine-member Board of Aldermen; 16-member House of Delegates (1890–1896)
- New York City Council - a quasi-bicameral arrangement of the New York City Board of Estimate and the City Council until the board's abolition in 1989
- Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis - (1877–1915)
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- Petitions being an important citizen tool in Glasgow's City Council