Last edited 22 Feb 2015

Unitary authority

In 1974 a two-tier administrative structure was established in England and Wales with functions allocated at the level at which they could be practised most efficiently.

The two tiers are:

  • County councils, responsible for services across an entire county, such as education and health.
  • District, borough or city councils, covering a smaller area and responsible for local services such as rubbish collection, housing and planning applications.

The local government reorganisation in the 1990s, introduced unitary authorities. These are single-tier administrations with responsibility for all aspects of local government in their area. Between 1995 and 1998 unitary authorities were established in a number of areas, in particular in medium-sized urban areas, with further reorganisation taking place in 2009.

Parish, community and town councils operate at a level below district and borough councils and in some cases, unitary authorities.

In London and metropolitan areas some services are provided through ‘joint authorities’.

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