A local government is a form of public administration which, in a majority of contexts, exists as the lowest tier of administration within a given state. The term is used to contrast with offices at state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or (where appropriate) federal government and also to supranational government which deals with governing institutions between states. Local governments generally act within powers delegated to them by legislation or directives of the higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises the third (or sometimes fourth) tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government, often with greater powers than higher-level administrative divisions.
The question of municipal autonomy is a key question of public administration and governance. The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, shire, village, and local service district.
Local government traditionally had limited power in Egypt's highly centralized state. Under the central government were twenty-six governorates (sing., muhafazah; pl., muhafazat). These were subdivided into districts (sing., markaz; pl., marakaz) and villages (sing., qaryah; pl., qura) or towns. At each level, there was a governing structure that combined representative councils and government-appointed executive organs headed by governors, district officers, and mayors, respectively. Governors were appointed by the president, and they, in turn, appointed subordinate executive officers. The coercive backbone of the state apparatus ran downward from the Ministry of Interior through the governors' executive organs to the district police station and the village headman (sing., umdah; pl., umadah).
Before the revolution, state penetration of the rural areas was limited by the power of local notables, but under Nasser, land reform reduced their socioeconomic dominance, and the incorporation of peasants into cooperatives transferred mass dependence from landlords to government. The extension of officials into the countryside permitted the regime to bring development and services to the village. The local branches of the ruling party, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), fostered a certain peasant political activism and coopted the local notables—in particular the village headmen—and checked their independence from the regime.
State penetration did not retreat under Sadat and Mubarak. The earlier effort to mobilize peasants and deliver services disappeared as the local party and cooperative withered, but administrative controls over the peasants remained intact. The local power of the old families and the headmen revived but more at the expense of peasants than of the state. The district police station balanced the notables, and the system of local government (the mayor and council) integrated them into the regime.
Sadat took several measures to decentralize power to the provinces and towns. Governors acquired more authority under Law Number 43 of 1979, which reduced the administrative and budgetary controls of the central government over the provinces. The elected councils acquired, at least formally, the right to approve or disapprove the local budget. In an effort to reduce local demands on the central treasury, local government was given wider powers to raise local taxes. But local representative councils became vehicles of pressure for government spending, and the soaring deficits of local government bodies had to be covered by the central government. Local government was encouraged to enter into joint ventures with private investors, and these ventures stimulated an alliance between government officials and the local rich that paralleled the infitah alliance at the national level. Under Mubarak decentralization and local autonomy became more of a reality, and local policies often reflected special local conditions. Thus, officials in Upper Egypt often bowed to the powerful Islamic movement there, while those in the port cities struck alliances with importers.
In recent years, Mali has undertaken an ambitious decentralization program, which involves the capital district of Bamako, seven regions subdivided into 46 cercles, and 682 rural community districts (communes). The state retains an advisory role in administrative and fiscal matters, and it provides technical support, coordination, and legal recourse to these levels. Opportunities for direct political participation, and increased local responsibility for development have been improved.
In August–September 1998, elections were held for urban council members, who subsequently elected their mayors. In May/June 1999, citizens of the communes elected their communal council members for the first time. Female voter turnout was about 70% of the total, and observers considered the process open and transparent. With mayors, councils, and boards in place at the local level, newly elected officials, civil society organizations, decentralized technical services, private sector interests, other communes, and donor groups began partnering to further development.
Eventually, the cercles will be reinstituted (formerly grouping arrondissements) with a legal and financial basis of their own. Their councils will be chosen by and from members of the communal councils. The regions, at the highest decentralized level, will have a similar legal and financial autonomy, and will comprise a number of cercles within their geographical boundaries. Mali needs to build capacity at these levels, especially to mobilize and manage financial resources.
South Africa has a two tiered local government system comprising local municipalities which fall into district municipalities, and metropolitan municipalities which span both tiers of local government.
Afghanistan was traditionally divided into provinces governed by centrally appointed governors with considerable autonomy in local affairs. There are currently 34 provinces. During the Soviet occupation and the development of country-wide resistance, local areas came increasingly under the control of mujaheddin groups that were largely independent of any higher authority; local commanders, in some instances, asserted a measure of independence also from the mujaheddin leadership in Pakistan, establishing their own systems of local government, collecting revenues, running educational and other facilities, and even engaging in local negotiations. Mujaheddin groups retained links with the Peshawar parties to ensure access to weapons that were doled out to the parties by the government of Pakistan for distribution to fighters inside Afghanistan.
The Taliban set up a shura (assembly), made up of senior Taliban members and important tribal from the area. Each shura made laws and collected taxes locally. The Taliban set up a provisional government for the whole of Afghanistan, but it did not exercise central control over the local shuras.
The process of setting up the transitional government in June 2002 by the Loya Jirga took many steps involving local government. First, at the district and municipal level, traditional shura councils met to pick electors—persons who cast ballots for Loya Jirga delegates. Each district or municipality had to choose a predetermined number of electors, based on the size of its population. The electors then traveled to regional centers and cast ballots, to choose from amongst themselves a smaller number of loya jirga delegates— according to allotted numbers assigned to each district. The delegates then took part in the Loya Jirga.
The warlords who rule various regions of the country exert local control. The transitional government is attempting to integrate local governing authorities with the central government, but it lacks the loyalty from the warlords necessary to its governing authority. More traditional elements of political authority—such as Sufi networks, royal lineage, clan strength, age-based wisdom, and the like—still exist and play a role in Afghan society. Karzai is relying on these traditional sources of authority in his challenge to the warlords and older Islamist leaders. The deep ethnic, linguistic, sectarian, tribal, racial, and regional cleavages present in the country create what is called "Qawm" identity, emphasizing the local over higher-order formations. Qawm refers to the group to which the individual considers himself to belong, whether a subtribe, village, valley, or neighborhood. Local governing authority relies upon these forms of identity and loyalty.
Bangladesh is divided into eight administrative divisions, each named after their respective divisional headquarters: Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Rangpur and Mymensingh Division.
Divisions are subdivided into districts (zila). There are 64 districts in Bangladesh, each further subdivided into upazila (subdistricts) or thana. The area within each police station, except for those in metropolitan areas, is divided into several unions, with each union consisting of multiple villages. In the metropolitan areas, police stations are divided into wards, which are further divided into mahallas. There are no directly elected officials at the divisional or district levels, although elected chairs of subdistricts also sit on district councils. Direct elections are held for each union (or ward), electing a chairperson and a number of members. In 1997, a parliamentary act was passed to reserve three seats (out of 12) in every union for female candidates.
Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. The cities with a city corporation, having mayoral elections, include Dhaka South, Dhaka North, Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Comilla and Gazipur. Other major cities, these and other municipalities electing a mayor and councilors for each ward, include Mymensingh, Gopalganj, Jessore, Bogra, Dinajpur, Saidapur, Narayanganj, Naogaon and Rangamati. Both the municipal heads are elected for a span of five years.
Since the Meiji restoration, Japan has had a local government system based on prefectures. The national government oversees much of the country. Municipal governments were historical villages. Now mergers are common for cost effective administration. There are 47 prefectures. They have two main responsibilities. One is mediation between national and municipal governments. The other is area wide administration.
Local government is the lowest level in the system of government in Malaysia—after federal and state. It has the power to collect taxes (in the form of assessment tax), to create laws and rules (in the form of by-laws) and to grant licenses and permits for any trade in its area of jurisdiction, in addition to providing basic amenities, collecting and managing waste and garbage as well as planning and developing the area under its jurisdiction.
There are over five thousand local governments in Pakistan. Since 2001, these have been led by democratically elected local councils, each headed by a Nazim (the word means "supervisor" in Urdu, but is sometimes translated as Mayor). Some districts, incorporating large metropolitan areas, are called City Districts. A City District may contain subdivisions called Towns and Union Councils. Council elections are held every four years. District Governments also include a District Coordination Officer (DCO), who is a civil servant in-charge of all devolved departments. Currently, the Powers of Nazim are also held by the DCO.
Local government in the Palestinian National Authority-controlled areas are divided into three main groups: Municipal councils, village council and local development committees.
The Local Government Code of 1991 provides for the three levels of Local Government Units or LGUs in the Philippines: (1) the province (2) city and municipality, and (3) the barangay. The country remains a unitary state and the National Government continues to have strong influence over local government units.
A province is led by a governor along with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council) composed of board members. A mayor leads a city or municipality while the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) and the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) constitute the legislative branches of a city and municipality, respectively. A barangay is headed by the Barangay Captain and the Barangay Council. Barangays can be further divided into puroks and sitios but their leadership is unelected.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution also provides for the existence of autonomous regions. The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is the only autonomous region in the Philippines. There was an attempt to institute an autonomous region in the Cordillera, but that failed and instead the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) was established.
Local governments have limited taxing authority. Most of their funds come from the national government via the Internal Revenue Allotment
There are three levels of local government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: the city council, the municipal council and the municipality.
The city council is the highest level of local government. The municipal councils began in 2005 and is the second level of local government. The municipality is the third level of local government. There are 178 municipalities across the kingdom. The first began in Jeddah during the Othmanic period. Each municipality is run by its city's mayor. As a collective the kingdom's municipalities make up the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs (MoMRA).
The Republic of China government in Taiwan consists of special municipality governments, provincial city governments and county governments for their local governments. They also have councils in each of those three local government levels.
Turkey has two levels of local government; provinces (Turkish: iller ) and districts (Turkish: ilçeler ).
The territory of Turkey is subdivided into 81 provinces for administrative purposes. The provinces are organized into 7 regions for census purposes; however, they do not represent an administrative structure. Each province is divided into districts, for a total of 957 districts.
Vietnam has 3 levels of local government:
Each level has a People's Committee (executive - up to third tier), a People's Council (legislative - up to third tier) and a People's Court (judiciary - up to second tier)
Albania has 3 levels of local government :
There are overall 2980 villages/communities (Albanian: fshat) in all Albania. Each district has its council which is composed of a number of municipalities. The municipalities are the first level of local governance, responsible for local needs and law enforcement.
Some parishes have a further territorial subdivision. Ordino, La Massana and Sant Julià de Lòria are subdivided into quarts (quarters), while Canillo is subdivided into 10 veïnats (neighborhoods). Those mostly coincide with villages, which are found in all parishes. Each parish has its own elected mayor who is the nominal head of the local government known as a comú in Catalan.
Since the 1880s, the number of territorial management units in Bulgaria has varied from seven to 26. Between 1987 and 1999 the administrative structure consisted of nine provinces (oblasti, singular oblast). A new administrative structure was adopted in parallel with the decentralisation of the economic system. It includes 27 provinces and a metropolitan capital province (Sofia-Grad). All areas take their names from their respective capital cities. The provinces subdivide into 264 municipalities.
Municipalities are run by mayors, who are elected to four-year terms, and by directly elected municipal councils. Bulgaria is a highly centralised state, where the national Council of Ministers directly appoints regional governors and all provinces and municipalities are heavily dependent on it for funding.
Croatia is divided into 20 counties and the capital city of Zagreb, the latter having the authority and legal status of a county and a city at the same time. The counties subdivide into 127 cities and 429 municipalities.
The highest tier of local government in the Czech Republic are the thirteen regions (Czech: kraje, singular kraj) and the capital city of Prague. Each region has its own elected Regional Assembly (krajské zastupitelstvo) and hejtman (usually translated as hetman or governor). In Prague, their powers are executed by the city council and the mayor.
The regions are divided into seventy-six districts (okresy, singular okres) including three "statutory cities" (without Prague, which had special status). The districts lost most of their importance in 1999 in an administrative reform; they remain as territorial divisions and seats of various branches of state administration. A further reform in effect since January 2003 created 204 Municipalities with Extended Competence (obce s rozšířenou působností); also obce III. stupně – third-level municipalities, unofficially also called "little districts" (Czech: 'malé okresy') which took over most of the administration of the former district authorities. Some of these are further divided between Municipalities with Commissioned Local Authority (obce s pověřeným obecním úřadem, shortened to pověřená obec, pl. pověřené obce; "second-level municipalities"). In 2007 the borders of the districts were slightly adjusted and 119 municipalities are now within different districts.
For local government purposes, Denmark is divided into five regions (Danish: regioner), with their most important area of responsibility being the public health service. They are also responsible for employment policies, and some regions are responsible for public mass transit. Regions are not entitled to levy their own taxes, and they rely entirely on central state funding (around 70%) and funding coming from the municipalities (around 30%). Regions are led by directly elected councils (regionsråd). They consist of 41 members each.
The regions are further divided into 98 municipalities (kommuner). Elections for the municipalities are held on the third Tuesday of November every four years.
Estonia is divided into fifteen counties (Estonian: maakonnad), each led by a county governor (maavanem), who represents the national government at the regional level. Governors are appointed by the government, and so the regions do not have full self-government. The regions are further divided into 227 municipalities (omavalitsus), and each municipality is a unit of self-government with its representative and executive bodies.
The most important administrative layer of local government in Finland are the 311 municipalities, which may also call themselves towns or cities. They account for half of public spending. Spending is financed by municipal income tax, property tax, state subsidies, and other revenue.
In addition to municipalities, there are two intermediate levels of local government. Municipalities co-operate in seventy-four sub-regions and nineteen regions. These are governed by the member municipalities and have only limited powers. However, the autonomous province of Åland has a directly elected regional council, and the Sami people have a semi-autonomous Sami Domicile Area in Lapland for issues on language and culture.
However, in addition to the constitutional clauses of 1958, there now exist specificities:
Since 1 January 2011, Greece consists of thirteen regions subdivided into a total of 325 municipalities and communities. The regions have their own elected governors and regional councils, however there are seven decentralized administrations, which group from one to three regions under a government-appointed general secretary. There is also one autonomous area, Mount Athos.
The counties are further subdivided into 174 subregions (kistérségek), and Budapest is its own subregion.
There are also 23 towns with county rights (singular megyei jogú város). The local authorities of these towns have extended powers, but these towns belong to the territory of the respective county instead of being independent territorial units.
The Municipalities of Iceland are local administrative areas in Iceland that provide a number of services to their inhabitants such as kindergartens, elementary schools, waste management, social services, public housing, public transportation, services to senior citizens and handicapped people. They also govern zoning and can voluntarily take on additional functions if they have the budget for it. The autonomy of municipalities over their own matters is guaranteed by the constitution of Iceland.
The municipalities are governed by municipal councils which are directly elected every four years. The sizes of these councils vary from five members in the smallest municipalities to fifteen in the largest one. Most municipalities except for the very small ones hire an executive manager who may or may not be a member of the municipal council. These managers are usually referred to as mayors (bæjarstjóri / borgarstjóri) in the mostly urban municipalities but "commune manager" (sveitarstjóri) in the rural or mixed municipalities.
Ireland is mainly based on a structure of thirty-one local authorities, termed County, City or City and County Councils. By far, the main source of funding is national government. Other sources include rates on commercial and industrial property, council housing rents, service charges and borrowing. Local policy decisions are sometimes heavily influenced by the TDs who represent the local constituency in Dáil Éireann (the main chamber of parliament in Ireland), and may be dictated by national politics rather than local needs.
Local government on the Isle of Man is based on the concept of ancient parishes. There are three types of local authorities: a borough corporation, town commissions, and parish commissions.
The Italian Constitution defines three levels of local government:
Major cities also have an extra tier of local government named Circoscrizione di Decentramento Comunale or, in some cities (e.g. Rome) Municipio.
Lithuania has a three-tier division of local government: the country is divided into 10 counties (Lithuanian: singular – apskritis, plural – apskritys) that are further subdivided into 60 municipalities (Lithuanian: singular – savivaldybė, plural – savivaldybės) which consist of over 500 elderships (Lithuanian: singular – seniūnija, plural – seniūnijos).
The counties are ruled by county governors (Lithuanian: apskrities viršininkas) appointed by the central government, and effectively oversee the two lower tiers of local government.
Municipalities are the most important administrative unit of local government. Each municipality has its own government and council, with elections taking place every four years. The council elects the mayor and appoints elders to govern the elderships.
Elderships, numbering over 500, are the smallest units of local government. They provide public services such as registering births and deaths and identifying individuals or families in need of welfare.
The Netherlands has three tiers of government. There are two levels of local government in the Netherlands, the provinces and the municipalities. The water boards are also part of the local government.
The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces (provincie, pl. provincies). They form the tier of administration between the central government and the municipalities. Each province is governed by a provincial council, the States-Provincial (Provinciale Staten, abbr. to PS). Its members are elected every four years. The day-to-day management of the province is in the hands of the provincial executive, the States Deputed (Gedeputeerde Staten, abbr. to GS). Members of the executive are chosen by the provincial council from among its own members and like the members of the provincial council serve for a period of four years. Members elected to the executive have to give up their membership of the provincial council. The size of the executive varies from one province to another. In Flevoland, the smallest of the Dutch provinces, it has four members, while most other provinces have six or seven. Meetings of the provincial executive are chaired by the King's Commissioner (Commissaris van de Koning(in), abbr. to CvdK). The King's Commissioner is not elected by the residents of the province, but appointed by the Crown (the King and government ministers). The appointment is for six years and may be extended by a second term. The King's Commissioner can be dismissed only by the Crown. King's Commissioners play an important part in the appointment of municipal mayors. When a vacancy arises, the King's Commissioner first asks the municipal council for its views as to a successor, then writes to the Minister of the Interior recommending a candidate.
Municipalities (gemeente, pl. gemeenten) form the lowest tier of government in the Netherlands, after the central government and the provinces. There are 415 of them (1 January 2012). The municipal council (gemeenteraad) is the highest authority in the municipality. Its members are elected every four years. The role of the municipal council is comparable to that of the board of an organisation or institution. Its main job is to decide the municipality's broad policies and to oversee their implementation. The day-to-day administration of the municipality is in the hands of the municipal executive (college van burgemeester en wethouders, abbr. to (college van) B&W), made up of the mayor (burgemeester) and the aldermen (wethouder, pl. wethouders). The executive implements national legislation on matters such as social assistance, unemployment benefits and environmental management. It also bears primary responsibility for the financial affairs of the municipality and for its personnel policies. Aldermen are appointed by the council. Councillors can be chosen to act as aldermen. In that case, they lose their seats on the council and their places are taken by other representatives of the same political parties. Non-councillors can also be appointed. Unlike councillors and aldermen, mayors are not elected (not even indirectly), but are appointed by the Crown. Mayors chair both the municipal council and the executive. They have a number of statutory powers and responsibilities of their own. They are responsible for maintaining public order and safety within the municipality and frequently manage the municipality's public relations. As Crown appointees, mayors also have some responsibility for overseeing the work of the municipality, its policies and relations with other government bodies. Although they are obliged to carry out the decisions of the municipal council and executive, they may recommend that the Minister of the Interior quash any decision that they believe to be contrary to the law or against the public interest. Mayors are invariably appointed for a period of six years and are normally re-appointed automatically for another term, provided the municipal council agrees. They can be dismissed only by the Crown and not by the municipal council.
Water boards (waterschap and hoogheemraadschap, pl. waterschappen and hoogheemraadschappen) are among the oldest government authorities in the Netherlands. They literally form the foundation of the whole Dutch system of local government; from time immemorial they have shouldered the responsibility for water management for the residents of their area. In polders this mainly involves regulating the water level. It has always been in the common interest to keep water out and polder residents have always had to work together. That is what led to the creation of water boards. The structure of the water boards varies, but they all have a general administrative body and an executive board (college van dijkgraaf en heemraden) consisting of a chairperson (dijkgraaf) and other members ((hoog)heemraad, pl. (hoog)heemraden). The chairperson also presides the general administrative body. This body consists of people representing the various categories of stakeholders: landholders, leaseholders, owners of buildings, companies and, since recently, all the residents as well. Importance and financial contribution decide how many representatives each category may delegate. Certain stakeholders (e.g. environmental organisations) may be given the power to appoint members. The general administrative body elects the executive board from among its members. The government appoints the chairperson for a period of six years. The general administrative body is elected for a period of four years. In the past the administrative body was elected as individuals but from 2009 they will be elected as party representatives. Unlike municipal council elections, voters do not usually have to go to a polling station but can vote by mail.
Norway's regional administration is organised in 19 counties (fylke), with 18 of them subdivided into 431 municipalities (kommune) per 1 January 2006. The municipal sector is a provider of vital services to the Norwegian public, accounting for about 20% of Norwegian GNP and 24% of total employment. Norway had 435 municipalities of varying size in 2003, each administered by an elected municipal council. They are grouped into 19 counties (fylker), each governed by an elected county council. Each county is headed by a governor appointed by the king in council. Oslo is the only urban center that alone constitutes a county; the remaining 18 counties consist of both urban and rural areas. County and municipal councils are popularly elected every four years. The municipalities have wide powers over the local economy, with the state exercising strict supervision. They have the right to tax and to use their resources to support education, libraries, social security, and public works such as streetcar lines, gas and electricity works, roads, and town planning, but they are usually aided in these activities by state funds.
Currently, mainland Portugal is divided into 18 districts (in Portuguese, distritos). Each district takes the name of their respective capital city. Insular Portugal, comprising the two Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, is organized as two autonomous regions (in Portuguese, regiões autónomas).
Each district and each Autonomous region is divided into municipalities (in Portuguese, municípios) which, in turn, are subdivided into parishes (in Portuguese, freguesias).
Since 1976, when the two Autonomous regions of Portugal were established, the Azores and Madeira are no longer divided into districts.
Poland has three levels of subdivision. The territory of Poland is divided into 16 voivodeships (provinces); these are further divided into 379 powiats (counties or districts), and these in turn are divided into 2,479 gminas (communes or municipalities). Major cities normally have the status of both gmina and powiat.
Each voivodeship is governed by a Voivodeship marshal.
Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities, which in turn are divided into 50 provinces. There are also two autonomous cities: those of Ceuta and Melilla. Finally, each province comprises a number of municipalities.
Each administrative entity is given powers, structure, and boundaries by a law that was passed by the Prime Minister .
Law 7/1985, passed by the former Spanish President Felipe González Márquez (socialist), lays down the procedure of the Local Government. Every city in Spain used this Law until 2003. This year, the former Spanish President José María Aznar López (conservative), passed a Law (57/2003) to modernize organic rules of those cities which had more than 250,000 inhabitants, and other important cities (like capital cities of provinces with at least 175,000 inhabitants). Also, it exists two other important Laws for specifically Madrid (Law 22/2006) and Barcelona (Law 1/2006). The main governing body in most municipalities is called Ayuntamiento (in the less populated municipalities an alternative local organization system called open council, "concejo abierto", is used). The Ayuntamiento in turn is formed by the Plenary (el Pleno, the collective formed by the city councillors) and the Mayor. The number of members that compose The Plenary varies depending on city's population (for example, since 2007 Valencia has 33 members and Pamplona has 27). The name given to the members of the Plenary is councillor (concejal). Those councillors are elected between city's inhabitants every four years by direct vote. After being elected, councillors meet in a special Plenary session to determine who will be elected, between them, as city's Mayor. In the next days after the election, the mayor chooses some councillors to set up the executive governing body (Junta de Gobierno or Comisión de Gobierno). After that, and for the next four years, city's mayor and the Junta de Gobierno will govern over the city according to their competences (urbanism, some taxes, local police, licenses for specific activities, cleaning services, etc.). Meanwhile, councillors in the Plenary but not part of the Junta de Gobierno (the opposition) will oversee Mayor's rule. The autonomous community of Catalonia is divided in 4 provinces and more than 900 municipalities. Between these two tiers, there are 41 comarques (singular, comarca), roughly equivalent to 'district' or 'county'. The comarca is a commonwealth, or union, of municipalities with competences in several fields (Law 6/1987 of the Parliament of Catalonia).
Every fourth year general elections are held in Sweden to elect members of the national parliament, 20 county council assemblies and 290 municipal assemblies. As the parliament elects the national government, the local assemblies elect their executive committees and their boards. Members in local committees and boards are elected proportionally by the political parties in the assemblies, giving all the major parties representation. The parties usually cooperate well on the local levels.
The county councils (landsting) are responsible for health care and usually provide transportation.
The municipalities (kommuner) are responsible for:
On a voluntary basis, the municipalities provide sports, culture, housing, energy as well as commercial service.
The activities are financed by income taxes. Swedes pay around 20% of their taxable income to the municipality and around 11% to the county council. (The national government is financed by VAT and payroll taxes and fees.)
The system of local government is different in each of the four home nations of the United Kingdom. In total there are 426 local authorities in the UK. 346 of these are in England, 11 in Northern Ireland, 32 in Scotland and 22 are in Wales.
The most complex system is in England, the result of numerous reforms and reorganisation over the centuries. The top level of sub-national administration within England until the end of March 2012 consists of the nine regions. The regions were used by central government for various statistical purposes, and Government Offices and assorted other institutions including Regional Development Agencies. Regional Government Offices, Regional Development Agencies and Regional Ministers were all abolished by the Cameron ministry in 2010. Only the London region which is a sub-region compared to the other regions of England has a directly elected government. Only one regional referendum has been held to date to seek consent for the introduction of direct elections elsewhere — in the northeast of England — and this was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate.
The layers of elected local government vary. In different areas the highest tier of elected local government may be:
In most areas there is a lower tier of government, civil parish, with limited functions. Most civil parishes are in rural areas, but if the parish is a town the parish council may be called a town council. In a few cases the parish is a city, and the parish council is called a city council.
Metropolitan counties, and a few non-metropolitan counties, no longer have elected councils or administrative functions, and their former functions are performed by districts. Such counties remain ceremonial counties.
Since 1 April 2015 Northern Ireland is divided into 11 districts. Local government in Northern Ireland does not carry out the same range of functions as those in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Wales has a uniform system of 22 unitary authorities, variously styled as county, county borough, city or city and county local authorities. There are also communities, equivalent to parishes.
Canada has a federal system with three orders of government. The largest is the federal government, followed by the provincial and local governments. Municipal governments are separately elected. They must follow laws and guidelines as set out by their province, but are allowed to pass additional by-laws and acts unique to them.
Mexico is a Federal Republic made up by 31 states and a federal district. Each state is divided in municipios, while the federal district is divided in sixteen delegaciones. Twenty-nine states of Mexico were created as administrative divisions by the constitution of 1917, which grants them those powers not expressly vested in the federal government; Mexico's two remaining territories, Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, achieved statehood on 9 October 1974, raising the total to 31. Each state has a constitution, a governor elected for six years, and a unicameral legislature, with representatives elected by district vote in proportion to population. An ordinary session of the legislature is held annually, and extraordinary sessions may be called by the governor or the permanent committee. Bills may be introduced by legislators, by the governor, by the state supreme court, and by municipalities (a unit comparable to a US county). In addition to the 31 states, there is also one federal district comprising Mexico City, whose governor serves as a member of the cabinet. Many state services are supported by federal subsidies.
The principal unit of state government is the municipality. Mexico's 2,378 municipalities are governed by municipal presidents and municipal councils. State governors generally select the nominees for the municipal elections. Municipal budgets are approved by the respective state governors. Until 1997, the president appointed the mayor of Mexico City. Political reforms allowed the first open elections in 1997, and Cuauhtémoc Cardenas Solórzano became Mexico City's first elected mayor.
Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. In some states, counties are divided into townships. There are several different types of jurisdictions at the municipal level, including the city, town, parish, borough, village, reservations and boundaries. The types and nature of these municipal entities varies from state to state.
Local government is the third type of government in Australia, after Federal and State.
Six of the territorial authorities are unitary authorities, which also have the powers of a regional council. They are Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, the Gisborne, Marlborough and Tasman district councils, and Chatham Islands Council.
Regional council areas are based on water catchment areas, whereas territorial authorities are based on community of interest and road access. Within a regional council area there are usually many city or district councils, although city and district councils can be in multiple regional council areas.
Argentina is a federation of 23 provinces and the federal capital of Buenos Aires. During the 19th century there was a bitter struggle between Buenos Aires and the interior provinces, and there has long been an element of tension regarding the division of powers between the central government and provincial bodies. The federal government retains control over such matters as the regulation of commerce, customs collections, currency, civil or commercial codes, or the appointment of foreign agents. The provincial governors are elected every four years.
The constitutional "national intervention" and "state of siege" powers of the president have been invoked frequently. The first of these powers was designed to "guarantee the republican form of government in the provinces." Since the adoption of the 1853 constitution, the federal government has intervened over 200 times, mostly by presidential decree. Under this authority, provincial and municipal offices may be declared vacant, appointments annulled, and local elections supervised. Between 1966 and 1973, all local legislatures were dissolved and provincial governors were appointed by the new president. A restoration of provincial and municipal government followed the return to constitutional government in 1973. After the March 1976 coup, the federal government again intervened to remove all provincial governors and impose direct military rule over all municipalities. Since 1983, representative local government has been in force again.
Until 1996, the President appointed the mayor of Buenos Aires, and by law, the president and Congress controlled any legislation that affected the city. Constitutional reforms that year led to an elected mayoral position, and a 60-member Poder Legislativo (legislative power).
Brazil is divided into 26 states and a federal district, the government is divided into federal, state, and municipalities. The federal district has no municipalities and acts as a state and municipality at the same time.
Elections in federal, state and municipalities follow all the same system, with elections of president, governor and mayor for executive branch and federal deputy, federal senate, state deputy and alderman for legislative branch. In municipalities according to the constitution, the number of alderman varies from 9 to 55 aldermans.
Paraguay is divided into 17 departments, which are subdivided into districts, which, in turn, comprise municipalities (the minimum requirement for a municipality is 3,000 persons) and rural districts (partidos). A governor, elected by popular vote, runs each department. Municipal government is exercised through a municipal board, chosen by direct election, and an executive department. In the principal cities and capitals, the executive department is headed by a mayor appointed by the minister of the interior; in other localities, the mayor is appointed by the presidents of the municipal boards.Police chiefs are appointed by the central government.
Peru is divided into 25 regions and the province of Lima. Each region has an elected government composed of a president and council that serve four-year terms. These governments plan regional development, execute public investment projects, promote economic activities, and manage public property. The province of Lima is administered by a city council. The goal of devolving power to regional and municipal governments was among others to improve popular participation. NGOs played an important role in the decentralisation process and still influence local politics.
Uruguay's administrative subdivisions consisted of nineteen territories called departments and governed by intendencias, which were subordinate to the central government and responsible for local administration. They enforced national laws and administered the nation's social and educational policies and institutions within their territories. These territories had limited taxing powers, but they could borrow funds and acquire property. They also had the power to establish unpaid five-member local boards or town councils in municipalities other than the departmental capital if the population was large enough to warrant such a body.
Executive authority was vested in a governor (intendente), who administered the department, and in a thirty-one-member departmental board (junta departmental), which carried out legislative functions. These functions included approval of the departmental budget and judicial actions, such as impeachment proceedings against departmental officials, including the governor. At the municipal level, a mayor (intendente municipal) assumed executive and administrative duties, carrying out resolutions made by the local board (whose members were appointed on the basis of proportional representation of the political parties). The governor was required to comply with and enforce the constitution and the laws and to promulgate the decrees enacted by the departmental board. The governor was authorized to prepare the budget, submit it for approval to the departmental board, appoint the board's employees, and, if necessary, discipline or suspend them. The governor represented the department in its relations with the national government and other departmental governments and in the negotiation of contracts with public or private agencies.
Like the governor, the members of the departmental board and the mayor were elected for five-year terms in direct, popular elections. A governor could be reelected only once, and candidates for the post had to meet the same requirements as those for a senator, in addition to being a native of the department or a resident therein for at least three years before assuming office. Departmental board members had to be at least twenty-three years of age, native born (or a legal citizen for at least three years), and a native of the department (or a resident for at least three years).
The board sat in the capital city of each department and exercised jurisdiction throughout the entire territory of the department. It could issue decrees and resolutions that it deemed necessary either on the suggestion of the governor or on its own initiative. It could approve budgets, fix the amount of taxes, request the intervention of the Accounts Tribunal for advice concerning departmental finances or administration, and remove from office—at the request of the governor—members of nonelective local departmental boards. The board also supervised local public services; public health; and primary, secondary, preparatory, industrial, and artistic education. Although Montevideo was the smallest department in terms of area (divided into twenty-three geographic zones that generally coincided with the electoral zones), its departmental board had sixty-five members in 1990; all other departments had thirty-one-member boards and a five-member executive council appointed by the departmental board, with proportional representation from the principal political parties.
Data as of December 1990
The administrative divisions of New York are the various units of government that provide local government services in the state of New York.
The state is divided into counties, cities, towns, and villages. Cities, towns and villages are municipal corporations with their own governments that provide most local government services. Whether a municipality is defined as a city, town, or village is dependent not on population or land area, but rather on the form of government selected by the residents and approved by the state legislature. Each such government is granted varying home rule powers as provided by the New York Constitution. New York has various corporate entities that serve single purposes that are also local governments, such as school and fire districts.New York has 62 counties, which are subdivided into 932 towns and 62 cities; it also has 10 Indian reservations. In total, the state has more than 3,400 active local governments and more than 4,200 taxing jurisdictions.Alderman
An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council member elected by voters.The title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning "elder man", and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires.
Similar titles exist in other Germanic countries, such as the Swedish Ålderman, the Danish and West Frisian Olderman, the Dutch Ouderman, the Finnish Oltermanni and the German Ältester which all mean "elder man" or "wise man".City council
A city council, town council, town board, or board of aldermen is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality, or local government area.Civil parish
In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government, they are a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and counties, or their combined form, the unitary authority. Civil parishes can trace their origin to the ancient system of ecclesiastical parishes which historically played a role in both civil and ecclesiastical administration; civil and religious parishes were formally split into two types in the 19th century and are now entirely separate. The unit was devised and rolled out across England in the 1860s.
A civil parish can range in size from a large town with a population of about 75,000 to a single village with fewer than a hundred inhabitants. In eight cases a parish comprises a city, the instances as at 2019 being where the monarch has confirmed city status due to a cathedral. A civil parish may be equally known as and confirmed as a town, village, neighbourhood or community by resolution of its parish council, a right reserved not conferred on other units of English local government. Approximately 35% of the English population live in a civil parish. As of 31 December 2015 there were 10,449 parishes in England. The most populous is Weston super Mare and those with cathedral city status are Chichester, Ely, Hereford, Lichfield, Ripon, Salisbury, Truro and Wells.
On 1 April 2014, Queen's Park became the first civil parish in Greater London. Before 2008 their creation was not permitted within a London borough.Wales was also divided into civil parishes until 1974, when they were replaced by communities, which are very similar to English parishes in the way they operate. Civil parishes in Scotland were abolished for local government purposes by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929, the Scottish equivalent of English civil parishes are community council areas, which were established by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.Counties of England
The counties of England are areas used for different purposes, which include administrative, geographical, cultural and political demarcation. The term 'county' is not clearly defined and can apply to similar or the same areas used by each of these demarcation structures. These different types of county each have a more formal name but are commonly referred to just as 'counties'. The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform.
The original county structure has its origins in the Middle Ages. These counties are often referred to as historic or traditional counties.The Local Government Act 1888 created new areas for organising local government that it called administrative counties and county boroughs. These administrative areas adopted the names of, and closely resembled the areas of, the traditional counties. Later legislative changes to the new local government structure led to greater distinction between the traditional and the administrative counties.
The Local Government Act 1972 abolished the 1888 act, its administrative counties and county boroughs. In their place, the 1972 Act created new areas for handling local government that were also called administrative counties. The 1972 administrative counties differed distinctly in area from the 1888 administrative counties, that had now been abolished, and from the traditional counties, that had still not been abolished. Many of the names of the traditional counties were still being used now for the 1972 administrative counties. Later legislation created yet further area differences between the 1972 administrative counties and the traditional counties. In 2018, for the purpose of administration, England outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly is divided into 83 metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.
The Lieutenancies Act 1997 created areas to be used for the purpose of the Lieutencies Act. These newly created areas are called ceremonial counties and are based on, but not always the same as, the areas of the 1972 administrative counties.
For the purpose of sorting and delivering mail, England was divided into 48 postal counties until 1996; these have been abandoned by Royal Mail in favour of postcodes.
The term 'county', relating to any of its meanings, is used as the geographical basis for a number of institutions such as police and fire services, sports clubs and other non-government organisations.Department of the Interior and Local Government
The Philippine Department of the Interior and Local Government (Filipino: Kagawaran ng Interyor at Pamahalaang Lokal), abbreviated as DILG, is the executive department of the Philippine government responsible for promoting peace and order, ensuring public safety and strengthening local government capability aimed towards the effective delivery of basic services to the citizenry.
The department is currently led by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, nominated by the President of the Philippines and confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet. The current Secretary of the Interior and Local Government is Former AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año.Districts of England
The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguish from unofficial city districts) are a level of subnational division of England used for the purposes of local government. As the structure of local government in England is not uniform, there are currently four principal types of district-level subdivision. There are a total of 326 districts made up of 36 metropolitan boroughs, 32 London boroughs, 201 non-metropolitan districts, 55 unitary authorities, as well as the City of London and the Isles of Scilly which are also districts, but do not correspond to any of these categories. Some districts are styled as boroughs, cities, or royal boroughs; these are purely honorific titles, and do not alter the status of the district. All boroughs and cities, and a few districts, are led by a mayor who in most cases is a ceremonial figure elected by the district council, but – after local government reform – is occasionally a directly elected mayor who makes most of the policy decisions instead of the council.Greater London
Greater London is a ceremonial county of England that is located within the London region. This region forms the administrative boundaries of London and is organised into 33 local government districts—the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, which is located within the region but is separate from the county. The Greater London Authority, based in Southwark, is responsible for strategic local government across the region and consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The City of London Corporation is responsible for the local government of only the City of London.
Administratively, Greater London was first established as a sui generis council area under the Greater London Council between 1963 and 1986. The county of Greater London was created on 1 April 1965 through the London Government Act 1963. The area was re-established as a region in 1994. The Greater London Authority was formed in 2000.The region covers 1,572 km2 (607 sq mi) and had a population of 8,174,000 at the 2011 census. The Greater London Built-up Area is used in some national statistics and is a measure of the continuous urban area and includes areas outside the administrative region.Local government areas of New South Wales
The local government areas (LGA) of New South Wales in Australia describes the institutions and processes by which areas, cities, towns, municipalities, regions, shires, and districts can manage their own affairs to the extent permitted by the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).
Local government authorities provide a wide range of services. The most important of these are the general services of administration, health, community amenities, recreation and culture, roads and debt servicing throughout the area controlled by the council. Councils also provide a range of trading activities, mainly in country areas of NSW. These trading activities include water supply, sewerage services, gas services and abattoir facilities.Administered by the Government of New South Wales and subject to periodic restructuring involving voluntary and involuntary amalgamation of areas, local government areas are considered a city when an area has received city status by proclamation of the Governor. Some areas retain designations they held under prior legislation, even though these titles no longer indicate a legal status. These include municipalities (that are predominantly inner-city suburban areas and smaller rural towns) and shires (that are predominantly rural or outer suburban areas). Many councils now choose not to use any area title, and simply refer to themselves as councils, e.g. Northern Beaches Council, Burwood Council. The smallest local government by area in the state is the Municipality of Hunter's Hill; the largest by area is Central Darling Shire Council.Local government areas of Nigeria
Nigeria has 774 local government areas (L.G.As). Each local government area is administered by a Local Government Council consisting of a chairman who is the Chief Executive of the LGA, and other elected members who are referred to as Councillors. Each of the areas is further subdivided into wards with a minimum of ten and a maximum of fifteen for each area.Local government in Australia
Local government in Australia is the third tier of government in Australia administered by the states and territories, which in turn are beneath the federal tier. Local government is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia and two referenda in the 1970s and 1980s to alter the Constitution relating to local government were unsuccessful. Every state government recognises local government in their respective constitutions. Unlike Canada or the United States, there is only one level of local government in each state, with no distinction such as cities and counties.
The local governing body is generally referred to as a council, and the territories governed are collectively referred to as "local government areas"; however, terms such as "city" or "shire" also have a geographic interpretation. In August 2016 there were 547 local councils in Australia.Despite the single level of local government in Australia, there are a number of extensive areas with relatively low populations which are not a part of any local government area. Powers of local governments in these areas may be exercised by special purpose bodies established outside the general legislation, as with Victoria's alpine resorts, or directly by state governments. The area covered by local councils in Australia ranges from as small as 1.5 km2 (0.58 sq mi) for the Shire of Peppermint Grove in metropolitan Perth, to the Shire of East Pilbara in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which covers 380,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi), an area larger than Germany or Japan.Local government in Wales
Since 1 April 1996, Wales has been divided into 22 single-tier principal areas for local government purposes. The elected councils of these areas are responsible for the provision of all local government services, including education, social work, environmental protection, and most highways. Below these there are also (in most, but not all, parts of the principal areas) elected community councils to which responsibility for specific aspects of the application of local policy may be devolved.
The queen appoints a Lord Lieutenant to represent her in each of the eight preserved counties of Wales, which are combinations of principal areas retained for ceremonial purposes.
Subdivisions of Wales created for such purposes as the organization of the National Health Service and the provision of police and emergency services are made up of combinations of principal areas. For example, the Dyfed–Powys Police force operates in the area covered by the principal areas of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire – the former three constituting the preserved county of Dyfed.London boroughs
The London boroughs are the 32 local authority districts that make up the Greater London county; each is governed by a London borough council. The London boroughs were all created at the same time as Greater London on 1 April 1965 by the London Government Act 1963 and are a type of local government district. Twelve were designated as Inner London boroughs and twenty as Outer London boroughs.
The London boroughs have populations of around 150,000 to 300,000. Inner London boroughs tend to be smaller, in both population and area, and more densely populated than Outer London boroughs. The London boroughs were created by combining groups of former local government units. A review undertaken between 1987 and 1992 led to a number of relatively small alterations in borough boundaries.
London borough councils provide the majority of local government services (schools, waste management, social services, libraries, etc.), in contrast to the strategic Greater London Authority, which has limited authority over all of Greater London.
The councils were first elected in 1964 and acted as shadow authorities until 1 April 1965. Each borough is divided into electoral wards, subject to periodic review, for the purpose of electing councillors. Council elections take place every four years, with the most recent elections in 2018 and the next elections due in 2022.
The political make-up of London borough councils is dominated by the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties. Twenty-eight councils follow the leader and cabinet model of executive governance, with directly elected mayors in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. The City of London is instead governed by the City of London Corporation and the Inner and Middle Temples.Mayor
In many countries, a mayor (from the Latin maior [majˈjɔr], meaning "bigger") is the highest-ranking official in a municipal government such as that of a city or a town.
Worldwide, there is a wide variance in local laws and customs regarding the powers and responsibilities of a mayor as well as the means by which a mayor is elected or otherwise mandated. Depending on the system chosen, a mayor may be the chief executive officer of the municipal government, may simply chair a multi-member governing body with little or no independent power, or may play a solely ceremonial role. Options for selection of a mayor include direct election by the public, or selection by an elected governing council or board.Mayor–council government
The mayor–council government system is a system of organization of local government. It is one of the two most common forms of local government in the United States and is also used in Canada. It is the one most frequently adopted in large cities, although the other form, council–manager government, is the local government form of more municipalities.
Characterized by having a mayor who is elected by the voters, the mayor–council variant may be broken down into two main variations depending on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches, becoming a weak-mayor or a strong-mayor variation based upon the powers of the office. These forms are used principally in modern representative municipal governments in the United States, but also are used in some other countries.Merseyside
Merseyside ( MUR-zee-syde) is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 1.38 million. It encompasses the metropolitan area centred on both banks of the lower reaches of the Mersey Estuary and comprises five metropolitan boroughs: Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, and the city of Liverpool. Merseyside, which was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, takes its name from the River Mersey.
Merseyside spans 249 square miles (645 km2) of land which border Lancashire (to the north-east), Greater Manchester (to the east), Cheshire (to the south and south-east) and the Irish Sea to the west. North Wales is across the Dee Estuary. There is a mix of high density urban areas, suburbs, semi-rural and rural locations in Merseyside, but overwhelmingly the land use is urban. It has a focused central business district, formed by Liverpool City Centre, but Merseyside is also a polycentric county with five metropolitan districts, each of which has at least one major town centre and outlying suburbs. The Liverpool Urban Area is the fifth most populous conurbation in England, and dominates the geographic centre of the county, while the smaller Birkenhead Urban Area dominates the Wirral Peninsula in the south.
For the 12 years following 1974 the county had a two-tier system of local government; district councils shared power with the Merseyside County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986, and so its districts (the metropolitan boroughs) are now effectively unitary authority areas. However, the metropolitan county continues to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and several county-wide services are co-ordinated by authorities and joint-boards, such as Merseytravel (for public transport), Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and the Merseyside Police (for law-enforcement); as a ceremonial county, Merseyside has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. The boroughs of Merseyside are joined by the neighbouring borough of Halton in Cheshire to form the Liverpool City Region, which is a local enterprise partnership and combined authority area.
Merseyside is an amalgamation of 22 former local government districts from the former administrative counties of Lancashire, Cheshire and six autonomous county boroughs centred on Birkenhead, Bootle, Liverpool, Southport, St Helens, and Wallasey.Municipal corporation
A municipal corporation is the legal term for a local governing body, including (but not necessarily limited to) cities, counties, towns, townships, charter townships, villages, and boroughs. The term can also be used to describe municipally owned corporations.Seat of local government
In local government, a city hall, town hall, civic centre, (in the UK or Australia) a guildhall, a Rathaus (German), or (more rarely) a municipal building, is the chief administrative building of a city, town, or other municipality. It usually houses the city or town council, its associated departments, and their employees. It also usually functions as the base of the mayor of a city, town, borough, or county/shire.
By convention, until the mid 19th-century, a single large open chamber (or 'hall') formed an integral part of the building housing the council. The hall may be used for council meetings and other significant events. This large chamber, the "town hall" (and its later variant "city hall") has become synonymous with the whole building, and with the administrative body housed in it. The terms "council chambers", "municipal building" or variants may be used locally in preference to "town hall" if no such large hall is present within the building.
The local government may endeavor to use the town hall building to promote and enhance the quality of life of the community. In many cases, "town halls" serve not only as buildings for government functions, but also have facilities for various civic and cultural activities. These may include art shows, stage performances, exhibits and festivals. Modern town halls or "civic centres" are often designed with a great variety and flexibility of purpose in mind.
As symbols of local government, city and town halls have distinctive architecture, and the buildings may have great historical significance – for example the Guildhall, London. City hall buildings may also serve as cultural icons that symbolize their cities.Subdivisions of Scotland
For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas", which are all governed by single-tier authorities designated as "councils". They have the option under the Local Government (Gaelic Names) (Scotland) Act 1997 of being known (but not re-designated) as a "comhairle" when opting for a Gaelic name; only Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Council of the Western Isles) has chosen this option, whereas the Highland Council (Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd) has adopted its Gaelic form alongside its English equivalent informally.
The council areas have been in existence since 1 April 1996, under the provisions of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. Historically, Scotland has been divided into 34 counties or shires. Although these no longer have any administrative function, they are still used to some extent in Scotland for cultural and geographical purposes. There are also a number of other administrative divisions, some of which are handled by joint boards of the councils.
At the most local level Scotland is divided into civil parishes, which are now used only for statistical purposes such as the census. The lowest level of administrative subdivision are the communities, which may elect community councils.