Unitary authorities of England

Unitary authorities of England are local authorities that are responsible for the provision of all local government services within a district. They are constituted under the Local Government Act 1992, which amended the Local Government Act 1972 to allow the existence of counties that do not have multiple districts. They typically allow large towns to have separate local authorities from the less urbanised parts of their counties and provide a single authority for small counties where division into districts would be impractical. Unitary authorities do not cover all of England. Most were established during the 1990s and a further tranche were created in 2009. Unitary authorities have the powers and functions that are elsewhere separately administered by councils of non-metropolitan counties and the non-metropolitan districts within them.

Unitary authority
CategoryLocal authority districts
LocationEngland
Found inRegions
Number55 (as of 2019)
Possible statusCoterminous Non-metropolitan county and Non-metropolitan district (45)
District of Berkshire (6)
Populations40,000–500,000

History

Background

The term "unitary authority" was first used in the Redcliffe-Maud Report in 1969 in its current sense of a local government authority which combines the functions of a county council and a district council.[1] Strictly speaking, the term does not necessarily mean a single level of local government within an area, because in some cases there are also parish councils in the same area.

Although the term was not applied to them, county boroughs between 1889 and 1974 were effectively unitary authorities, that is, single-tier administrative units. Before 1889, local government authorities had different powers and functions, but from medieval times some cities and towns had a high degree of autonomy as counties corporate. Some smaller settlements also enjoyed some degree of autonomy from regular administration as boroughs or liberties.

The Local Government Act 1972 created areas for local government where large towns and their rural hinterlands were administered together. The concept of unitary units was abandoned with a two-tier arrangement of county and district councils in all areas of England, except the Isles of Scilly where the small size and distance from the mainland made it impractical. In 1986 a broadly unitary system of local government was introduced in the six metropolitan counties and Greater London, where the upper-tier authorities were abolished and their functions were split between central government, the borough councils and joint boards.[2]

1990s reform

A review in the 1990s was initiated to select non-metropolitan areas where new unitary authorities could be created.[3] The resulting structural changes were implemented between 1995 and 1998. Bristol, Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight and Rutland were established as counties of a single district; the district councils of Berkshire became unitary; the counties of Avon, Humberside and Cleveland were broken up to create several unitary authorities; and a number of districts were split off from their associated counties.[2] The changes caused the ceremonial counties to be defined separately, as they had been before 1974. The review caused 46 unitary authorities to be created.[2]

2009 changes

A further review was initiated in 2007 and was enacted in 2009. The review established Cornwall and Northumberland as counties of a single district; established unitary authorities in County Durham, Shropshire and Wiltshire covering the part of the county that was not already split off in the 1990s review; and divided the remainder of Bedfordshire and Cheshire into two unitary authorities. The review caused nine unitary authorities to be created.

Further reform

In 2016, Oxfordshire County Council put forward a 'One Oxfordshire' proposal which would see Oxford City Council and the four other district councils in Oxfordshire abolished and replaced with a single unitary county council for Oxfordshire. In 2017, Oxford City Council voiced their opposition to the proposal. A decision on whether the proposal will go ahead was to have been announced in March 2017.

In 2017, it was proposed that two unitary authorities be formed to cover the ceremonial county of Dorset. One of the authorities would consist of the existing unitary authorities of Bournemouth, Poole and the non-metropolitan district of Christchurch, the other would be composed of the remainder of the county.[4] In November 2017, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid stated that he was "minded to approve the proposals" and a final decision to implement the two unitary authority model was confirmed in February 2018. Statutory instruments for the creation of two unitary authorities, to be named Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and Dorset Council, have been made and shadow authorities for the new council areas were formed ahead of their creation on 1 April 2019.[5][6]

The existing Buckinghamshire County Council and the non-metropolitan districts of Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks, and Wycombe in Buckinghamshire will be replaced by a single unitary authority to be known as Buckinghamshire Council on 1 April 2020. The existing unitary authority of Milton Keynes will not be affected; the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire will therefore be composed of two unitary authorities from 1 April 2020.[7][8]

In March 2018, an independent report commissioned by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, proposed structural changes to local government in Northamptonshire. These changes would see the existing county council and district councils abolished and two new unitary authorities created in their place.[9] One authority would consist of the existing districts of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other authority would consist of Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough districts.[10]

Functions

Unitary authorities combine the powers and functions that are normally delivered separately by the councils of non-metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan districts. These functions are housing, waste management, waste collection, council tax collection, education, libraries, social services, transport, planning, consumer protection, licensing, cemeteries and crematoria. The breakdown of these services is as follows:[11]

Service Non-metropolitan county Non-metropolitan district Unitary authority
Education Y Y
Housing Y Y
Planning applications Y Y
Strategic planning Y Y
Transport planning Y Y
Passenger transport Y Y
Highways Y Y
Fire Y Y
Social services Y Y
Libraries Y Y
Leisure and recreation Y Y
Waste collection Y Y
Waste disposal Y Y
Environmental health Y Y
Revenue collection Y Y

Electoral arrangements

Most unitary authorities are divided into a number of multiple member wards from which councillors are elected in the same way as in two-tier district council elections. The exceptions, which are divided into electoral divisions as in county council elections, are Cornwall, County Durham, the Isle of Wight, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire.[12]

Current list

Most unitary authorities are legally defined as being coterminous non-metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan districts run by a single council. While it makes no difference, they can either be run by a county council that additionally has district powers and functions, or a district council that additionally has county powers and functions. If there's a county council, the district has no council, and vice versa. Districts can additionally have the status of borough or city, although this has no effect on their powers or functions.

Unitary AuthorityCouncilCreatedRun byCeremonial County
Bath and North East Somerset[13]Bath and North East Somerset Council1996DistrictSomerset
Bedford[14]Bedford Borough Council2009DistrictBedfordshire
Blackburn with Darwen[15]Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council1998DistrictLancashire
Blackpool[15]Blackpool Council1998DistrictLancashire
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole[16]Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council2019DistrictDorset
Bracknell Forest[17]Bracknell Forest Borough Council1998District[lower-alpha 1]Berkshire
Brighton and Hove[18]Brighton and Hove City Council1997DistrictEast Sussex
Bristol[13]Bristol City Council1996DistrictBristol
Central Bedfordshire[14]Central Bedfordshire Council2009DistrictBedfordshire
Cheshire East[19]Cheshire East Council2009DistrictCheshire
Cheshire West and Chester[19]Cheshire West and Chester Council2009DistrictCheshire
Cornwall[20]Cornwall Council2009CountyCornwall
County Durham[21]Durham County Council2009CountyCounty Durham
Darlington[22]Darlington Borough Council1997DistrictCounty Durham
Derby[23]Derby City Council1997DistrictDerbyshire
Dorset[16]Dorset Council2019DistrictDorset
East Riding of Yorkshire[24]East Riding of Yorkshire Council1996DistrictEast Riding of Yorkshire
Halton[25]Halton Borough Council1998DistrictCheshire
Hartlepool[26]Hartlepool Borough Council1996DistrictCounty Durham
Herefordshire[27]Herefordshire Council1998DistrictHerefordshire
Isle of Wight[28]Isle of Wight Council1995CountyIsle of Wight
Kingston upon Hull[24]Hull City Council1996DistrictEast Riding of Yorkshire
Leicester[29]Leicester City Council1997DistrictLeicestershire
Luton[30]Luton Borough Council1997DistrictBedfordshire
Medway[31]Medway Council1998DistrictKent
Middlesbrough[26]Middlesbrough Borough Council1996DistrictNorth Yorkshire
Milton Keynes[32]Milton Keynes Council1997DistrictBuckinghamshire
North East Lincolnshire[24]North East Lincolnshire Council1996DistrictLincolnshire
North Lincolnshire[24]North Lincolnshire Council1996DistrictLincolnshire
North Somerset[13]North Somerset Council1996DistrictSomerset
Northumberland[33]Northumberland County Council2009CountyNorthumberland
Nottingham[34]Nottingham City Council1998DistrictNottinghamshire
Peterborough[35]Peterborough City Council1998DistrictCambridgeshire
Plymouth[36]Plymouth City Council1998DistrictDevon
Portsmouth[37]Portsmouth City Council1997DistrictHampshire
Reading[17]Reading Borough Council1998District[lower-alpha 1]Berkshire
Redcar and Cleveland[26]Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council1996DistrictNorth Yorkshire
Rutland[29]Rutland County Council1997DistrictRutland
Shropshire[38]Shropshire Council2009CountyShropshire
Slough[17]Slough Borough Council1998District[lower-alpha 1]Berkshire
Southampton[37]Southampton City Council1997DistrictHampshire
Southend-on-Sea[39]Southend-on-Sea Borough Council1998DistrictEssex
South Gloucestershire[13]South Gloucestershire Council1996DistrictGloucester
Stockton-on-Tees[26]Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council1996DistrictCounty Durham and North Yorkshire
Stoke-on-Trent[40]Stoke-on-Trent City Council1998DistrictStaffordshire
Swindon[41]Swindon Borough Council1998DistrictWiltshire
Telford and Wrekin[42]Telford and Wrekin Borough Council1998DistrictShropshire
Thurrock[39]Thurrock Council1998DistrictEssex
Torbay[36]Torbay Council1998DistrictDevon
Warrington[25]Warrington Borough Council1998DistrictCheshire
West Berkshire[17]West Berkshire Council1998District[lower-alpha 1]Berkshire
Wiltshire[43]Wiltshire Council2009CountyWiltshire
Windsor and Maidenhead[17]Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council1998District[lower-alpha 1]Berkshire
Wokingham[17]Wokingham Borough Council1998District[lower-alpha 1]Berkshire
York[44]City of York Council1996DistrictNorth Yorkshire

Notes

  1. The non-metropolitan county of Berkshire was not abolished. Its council was abolished with districts taking on its functions. Unlike most unitary authorities, Berkshire's districts are not non-metropolitan counties.

Similar authorities

The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a sui generis single-tier authority, created in 1890 and since 1930 has held the "powers, duties and liabilities" of a county council.[45] It thus is not a unitary authority as those are such authorities created under the Local Government Act 1992. The 36 metropolitan borough councils are also the sole elected local government units in their areas (except for parish councils in a few locations), but share strategic functions with joint boards and arrangements. On the other hand, the City of London Corporation and the 32 London borough councils, although they have a high degree of autonomy, share strategic functions with the directly elected Mayor of London and London Assembly.

Combined authorities

Unitary authorities should not be confused with another formation in English local government, the combined authority.

See also

References

  1. Redcliffe-Maud Report I. vi 73, cited in Oxford English Dictionary Online, draft addendum February 2003, s.v. unitary. An earlier citation, in 1936, uses the term for the London County Council in the sense of an elected council for the whole of London.
  2. Atkinson, H. & Wilks-Heeg, S. (2000). Local Government from Thatcher to Blair. Polity.
  3. Jones, Kavanagh, Moran & Norton (2004). Politics UK (5th ed.). Pearson.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. "Future Dorset - Two new authorities for Dorset". futuredorset.co.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  5. "The Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole (Structural Changes) Order 2018". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  6. "Shadow Dorset Council". Shadow Dorset Council. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  7. Buckinghamshire unitary council plan gets go-ahead from BBC News
  8. The Buckinghamshire (Structural Changes) Order 2019
  9. "Troubled council 'should be scrapped'". 15 March 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2018 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  10. "Northamptonshire County Council 'should be split up', finds damning report". itv.com. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  11. Frequently Asked Questions on the structural reviews of Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk, Boundary Commission for England
  12. "Help using the election maps apps". openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  13. "The Avon (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  14. "The Bedfordshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  15. "The Lancashire (Boroughs of Blackburn and Blackpool) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  16. "The Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole (Structural Changes) Order 2018". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  17. "The Berkshire (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  18. "The East Sussex (Boroughs of Brighton and Hove) (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  19. "The Cheshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  20. "The Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  21. "The County Durham (Structural Change) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  22. "The Durham (Borough of Darlington) (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  23. "The Derbyshire (City of Derby)(Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  24. "The Humberside (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  25. "The Cheshire (Boroughs of Halton and Warrington) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  26. "The Cleveland (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  27. "The Hereford and Worcester (Structural, Boundary and Electoral Changes) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  28. "The Isle of Wight (Structural Change) Order 1994". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  29. "The Leicestershire (City of Leicester and District of Rutland) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  30. "The Bedfordshire (Borough of Luton) (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  31. "The Kent (Borough of Gillingham and City of Rochester upon Medway) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  32. "The Buckinghamshire (Borough of Milton Keynes) (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  33. "The Northumberland (Structural Change) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  34. "The Nottinghamshire (City of Nottingham) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  35. "The Cambridgeshire (City of Peterborough) (Structural, Boundary and Electoral Changes) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  36. "The Devon (City of Plymouth and Borough of Torbay) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  37. "The Hampshire (Cities of Portsmouth and Southampton) (Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  38. "The Shropshire (Structural Change) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  39. "The Essex (Boroughs of Colchester, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock and District of Tendring) (Structural, Boundary and Electoral Changes) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  40. "The Staffordshire (City of Stoke-on-Trent) (Structural and Boundary Changes) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  41. "The Wiltshire (Borough of Thamesdown)(Structural Change) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  42. "The Shropshire (District of The Wrekin) (Structural Change) Order 1996". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  43. "The Wiltshire (Structural Change) Order 2008". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  44. "The North Yorkshire (District of York) (Structural and Boundary Changes) Order 1995". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  45. "Isles of Scilly Order 1930" (PDF). Retrieved 7 November 2017.
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