The metropolitan counties are a type of county-level administrative division of England. There are six metropolitan counties, which each cover large urban areas, typically with populations of 1.2 to 2.8 million. They were created in 1974 and are each divided into several metropolitan districts or boroughs.
The metropolitan county councils were abolished in 1986 with most of their functions being devolved to the individual boroughs, making them de facto unitary authorities. The remaining functions were taken over by joint boards. Since then, however, mayoral and non-mayoral combined authorities have been created that serve as means of strategic governance in all the metropolitan counties, with various powers allocated depending on the devolution deals negotiated between the borough councils and central government.
The metropolitan counties have population densities of between 800 (Tyne and Wear) and 2,800 (West Midlands) people/km². Individual metropolitan districts range from 4,000 people/km² in Liverpool to only 500 people/km² in Doncaster. Residents of metropolitan counties account for around 22% of the population of England, or 18% of the United Kingdom.
|Created by||Local Government Act 1972|
|Created||1 April 1974|
|Number||6 (as of 2008)|
|Additional status||Ceremonial counties|
The six metropolitan counties and their metropolitan districts are:
|Metropolitan county||Population (2017)||Constituent Metropolitan boroughs|
|Greater Manchester||2,798,800||City of Manchester, City of Salford, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan|
|Merseyside||1,416,800||City of Liverpool, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral|
|South Yorkshire||1,393,400||City of Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham|
|Tyne and Wear||1,129,500||City of Newcastle upon Tyne, City of Sunderland, Gateshead, South Tyneside, North Tyneside|
|West Midlands||2,897,300||City of Birmingham, City of Coventry, City of Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall|
|West Yorkshire||2,307,000||City of Leeds, City of Bradford, City of Wakefield, Calderdale, Kirklees|
The idea of creating administrative areas based upon the large conurbations outside London, modelled on the County of London or Greater London, was mooted several times in the 20th century. In 1948, the Local Government Boundary Commission proposed several new counties, including 'South East Lancashire North East Cheshire' ("Selnec"),and 'South West Lancashire North West Cheshire'. In the 1960s the Local Government Commission for England proposed such an arrangement for Tyneside and draft proposals considered it for Selnec. For the West Midlands conurbation, the commiddion proposed instead a group of contiguous county boroughs with no overall metropolitan authority.
The Redcliffe-Maud Report of 1969 proposed the creation of three large "metropolitan areas" based upon the conurbations surrounding Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham (Selnec, Merseyside, and West Midlands), which were to have both metropolitan councils covering the entire areas, and district councils covering parts. Harold Wilson's government published a white paper broadly accepting these recommendations, and adding South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire as metropolitan areas.
The proposals were radically altered when Edward Heath's Conservative government came to power in 1970. The Conservatives' local government White Paper was published in February 1971, naming the metropolitan areas "metropolitan counties", and giving them as "Merseyside, south-east Lancashire and north-east Cheshire, the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, and the Tyne and Wear area".
The proposed counties were also far smaller than in the original proposals; they were trimmed at each successive stage. The Redcliffe-Maud report had included Chester in Merseyside and Redditch and Stafford in West Midlands. The Conservative policy favoured retaining historic boundaries as far as was practicable, and the new White Paper proposals generally reduced the metropolitan counties to the continuously built up area. Many areas on the edges were excluded from the metropolitan counties when the Bill was passed: Easington, Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ellesmere Port, Neston, New Mills, Whaley Bridge and Glossop; other areas were excluded during the Bill's passage, such as Seaham, Skelmersdale and Holland, Poynton and Wilmslow. One area, the county borough of Southport, was added to Merseyside in the Bill, at the local council's request.
Several other proposals for metropolitan counties were made during the Bill's passage, including a revival of the proposal for Hampshire (either the southern part or all of it) and central Lancashire. A Thamesside metropolitan county, covering areas of north Kent and south Essex on the Thames Estuary (and now considered part of the Thames Gateway) was also proposed.
The metropolitan counties were created by the Local Government Act 1972. The county councils were first elected in 1973, and were formally established in April 1974.
The metropolitan counties were first created with a two-tier structure of local government. Local government functions were divided between the metropolitan district councils as lower tier authorities and metropolitan county councils (MCCs) as the upper tier.
The structure differed from the non-metropolitan counties in the allocation of powers between the county and district councils. The metropolitan districts had more powers than non-metropolitan districts, in that they were responsible for services such as education, and social services. In the non-metropolitan counties these were the responsibility of the county councils.
The metropolitan county councils (MCCs) were intended to be strategic authorities that ran regional services such as main roads, public transport, emergency services, civil protection, waste disposal, and strategic town and country planning. The MCCs functioned between 1974 and 1986.
Just a decade after they were established, the mostly Labour-controlled metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council had several high-profile clashes with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher about overspending and high rates. Government policy on the issue was considered throughout 1982, and the Conservative Party put a "promise to scrap the metropolitan county councils", and the GLC, in their manifesto for the 1983 general election.
The exact details of the reform caused problems. In October 1983, it published a White Paper entitled Streamlining the cities which set out detailed plans for the abolition of the MCCs, together with the abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC).
The Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech and was introduced into Parliament soon afterwards. It became the Local Government Act 1985; the MCCs and the GLC were abolished at midnight on 31 March 1986.
The last elections to the councils were held in May 1981; elections that would have been held in 1985 were abandoned under the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Act 1984; The original plan had been for councillors' terms to expire in April 1985, and for councillors to be replaced by nominees from borough councils until 1986.
While the abolition of the GLC was highly controversial, the abolition of the MCCs was much less so. The Liberal Party leader David Steel had supported abolition of the MCCs in his 1981 conference speech. The government's stated reasons for the abolition of the MCCs were based on efficiency and their overspending.
However the fact that all of the county councils were controlled by the Labour Party led to accusations that their abolition was motivated by party politics: the general secretary of Nalgo described it as a "completely cynical manoeuvre". Merseyside in particular put up a struggle against abolition. Most of the functions of the MCCs passed either to the metropolitan borough councils, or to joint boards. Some assets were given to residuary bodies for disposal. The split of functions from the metropolitan county councils was as follows:
|Special joint arrangements||Grants to voluntary bodies, roads and traffic management, waste disposal, airports|
|Joint boards||Fire, police, public transport|
|Quangos||Arts, pensions and debt, sport|
|District councils||Arts, civil defence, planning, trading standards, parks, tourism, archives, industrial assistance, highways|
The metropolitan counties are sometimes referred to as "former metropolitan counties", although this description is not entirely correct. The county councils were abolished, but under the Local Government Act 1972, the counties themselves remain in existence, although they no longer exist in ISO 3166-2:GB as extant administrative subdivisions.
By virtue of the Lieutenancies Act 1997 they remain as ceremonial counties (sometimes called 'geographic counties') which have an appointed Lord Lieutenant. They are also used in certain government statistics, although they no longer appear on Ordnance Survey maps, which show the individual metropolitan boroughs.
Some local services are still run on a metropolitan county-wide basis, administered by statutory joint boards and special joint arrangements; these include policing (by joint police authorities), fire services, public transport (by passenger transport executives) and waste disposal (in Merseyside and Greater Manchester). These joint boards are made up of councillors appointed by the boroughs. Since 2000, the metropolitan counties have been used as the areas of joint Local Transport Plans.
In 1999, following a successful referendum, the Labour government under Tony Blair legislated to create a strategic authority for London (the Greater London Authority). Despite some talk of doing so, no bodies were established to replace the MCCs. The Blair government instead pursued the idea of elected Regional Assemblies, although after an unsuccessful referendum in the most positive region, the North East, this idea now has few proponents. The idea of city regions has been proposed subsequently, although the 2006 local government white paper had no firm proposals for formal recognition of this concept. This changed in 2010 when the Government accepted a proposal from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities to establish a Greater Manchester Combined Authority as an indirectly elected, top tier, strategic authority for Greater Manchester. In 2014 similar indirectly elected combined authorities were established for the metropolitan counties of South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, and two combined authorities were established which each covered a metropolitan county and adjacent non-metropolitan districts: the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for Merseyside and the Borough of Halton unitary authority, and the North East Combined Authority for Tyne and Wear and the unitary authorities of County Durham and Northumberland. In 2017 the West Midlands Combined Authority was established for the West Midlands county. Many of these new combined authorities have elected or are in the process of electing authority-wide regional mayors.
Since 1995, the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield have assembled together in the Core Cities Group. This organisation accords no distinct legal status on these councils over any other city council in England but appears to be organically moving towards some kind of recognition of their role as regional capitals outside London.
Local elections to Greater Manchester County Council, a Metropolitan County Council encompassing Greater Manchester, were held on 7 May 1981, resulting in large swings to Labour, giving them control of the council.
This would be the last election to the Greater Manchester County Council, with metropolitan county councils being scrapped on 31 March 1986 under the Local Government Act 1985 by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. The councils' abolition came following several high-profile clashes between mostly Labour metropolitan county councils and the Conservative government over issues including overspending and high rates charging.Durham County Council
Durham County Council is the local authority of the non-metropolitan County Durham (i.e. excluding the ceremonial county's boroughs of Darlington, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees, which have their own unitary authority councils) in North East England. Since 2009 it has been a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. From 1889 to 2009 it was a county council in a two-tier arrangement.
At the time of the 2011 census it served a population of 513,200, which makes it one of the most-populous local authorities in England. It has its headquarters at County Hall in Durham.Essex County Council
Essex County Council is the county council that governs the non-metropolitan county of Essex in England. It has 75 councillors, elected from 70 divisions, and is currently controlled by the Conservative Party. The council meets at County Hall in the centre of Chelmsford. It is a member of the East of England Local Government Association.Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county and combined authority area in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, and designated a functional city region on 1 April 2011.
Greater Manchester spans 493 square miles (1,277 km2), which roughly covers the territory of the Greater Manchester Built-up Area, the second most populous urban area in the UK. It is landlocked and borders Cheshire (to the south-west and south), Derbyshire (to the south-east), West Yorkshire (to the north-east), Lancashire (to the north) and Merseyside (to the west). There is a mix of high-density urban areas, suburbs, semi-rural and rural locations in Greater Manchester, but land use is mostly urban—the product of concentric urbanisation and industrialisation which occurred mostly during the 19th century when the region flourished as the global centre of the cotton industry. It has a focused central business district, formed by Manchester city centre and the adjoining parts of Salford and Trafford, but Greater Manchester is also a polycentric county with ten metropolitan districts, each of which has at least one major town centre and outlying suburbs.
Greater Manchester is governed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which consists of political leaders from each of the ten metropolitan borough councils, plus a directly elected mayor, with responsibility for economic development, regeneration and transport. Andy Burnham is the inaugural Mayor of Greater Manchester, elected in 2017. For the 12 years following 1974 the county had a two-tier system of local government; district councils shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986, and so its districts (the metropolitan boroughs) effectively became unitary authority areas. However, the metropolitan county continued to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and as a ceremonial county, with a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. Several county-wide services were co-ordinated through the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities between 1985 and 2011.
Before the creation of the metropolitan county, the name SELNEC was used for the area, from the initials of "South East Lancashire North East Cheshire". Greater Manchester is an amalgamation of 70 former local government districts from the former administrative counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and eight independent county boroughs. Since deindustrialisation in the mid-20th century, Greater Manchester has emerged as an exporter of media and digital content, guitar and dance music, and association football.Isle of Wight Council elections
Isle of Wight is a unitary authority and former non-metropolitan county in England.List of Parliamentary constituencies in Lincolnshire
The non-metropolitan county of Lincolnshire
is divided into 7 Parliamentary constituencies – 1 Borough constituency and 6 County constituencies.List of police forces of the United Kingdom
This is a list of the 45 territorial police forces and 3 special police forces of the United Kingdom. It does not include non-police law enforcement agencies or bodies of constables not constituted as police forces.
For a list of all law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom and its territories, see List of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom, Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories.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.Merseyside County Council
The Merseyside County Council (MCC) was, from 1974 to 1986, the upper-tier administrative body for Merseyside, a metropolitan county in North West England.
MCC existed for a total of twelve years. It was established on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. However, along with five other metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council it was abolished on 31 March 1986 by the Local Government Act 1985.
MCC was a strategic authority running regional services such as transport, strategic planning, emergency services and waste disposal. Elections were held to the council in 1973, 1977 and 1981. Elections were due to be held in 1985 but these were cancelled due to the council's abolition.Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and were also the counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies. Later changes in legislation during the 1980s and 1990s have allowed counties without county councils and 'unitary authority' counties of a single district. Counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies are now defined separately, based on the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.
In 2009, there were further structural changes in some areas, resulting in a total of 83 metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. These 83 counties collectively consist of 292 districts or district-level subdivisions, i.e. 36 metropolitan boroughs and 256 non-metropolitan districts (201 of these are subdivisions of non-metropolitan counties with county councils; 6 are subdivisions (and also unitary authorities, but without non-metropolitan county status) of Berkshire, which is a non-metropolitan county with no county council; and the remaining 49 are unitary authorities that have non-metropolitan county status).Metropolitan borough
A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district in England, and is a subdivision of a metropolitan county. Created in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, metropolitan boroughs are defined in English law as metropolitan districts. However, all of them have been granted or regranted royal charters to give them borough status (as well as, in some cases, city status). Metropolitan boroughs have been effectively unitary authority areas since the abolition of the metropolitan county councils by the Local Government Act 1985. However, metropolitan boroughs pool much of their authority in joint boards and other arrangements that cover whole metropolitan counties, such as combined authorities.Non-metropolitan county
A non-metropolitan county, or colloquially, shire county, is a county-level entity in England that is not a metropolitan county. The counties typically have populations of 300,000 to 1.4 million. The term shire county is, however, an unofficial usage. Many of the non-metropolitan counties bear historic names and most end in the suffix "-shire" such as Wiltshire or Staffordshire. Of the remainder, some counties had the -shire ending and have lost it over time; such as Devon and Somerset. "Shire county" is, strictly, a dual-language tautology since the French-derived "county" means the same as the older Anglo-Saxon word "shire".Non-metropolitan district
Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district in England. As created, they are sub-divisions of non-metropolitan counties (colloquially shire counties) in a two-tier arrangement.South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire is a metropolitan county in England. It is the southernmost county in the Yorkshire and the Humber region and had a population of 1.34 million in 2011. It has an area of 1,552 square kilometres (599 sq mi) and consists of four metropolitan boroughs, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. South Yorkshire was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972. Its largest settlement is Sheffield.
Lying on the east side of the Pennines, South Yorkshire is landlocked, and borders Derbyshire to the west and south-west, West Yorkshire to the north-west, North Yorkshire to the north, the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north-east, Lincolnshire to the east and Nottinghamshire to the south-east. The Sheffield Urban Area is the tenth most populous conurbation in the United Kingdom, and dominates the western half of South Yorkshire with over half of the county's population living within it. South Yorkshire lies within the Sheffield City Region with Barnsley also being within the Leeds City Region, reflecting its geographical position midway between Yorkshire's two largest cities.
South Yorkshire County Council was abolished in 1986 and its metropolitan boroughs are now effectively unitary authorities, although the metropolitan county continues to exist in law. As a ceremonial county, South Yorkshire has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff.
South Yorkshire was created from 32 local government districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire (the administrative county and four independent county boroughs), with small areas from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
In the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union, South Yorkshire voted 62% leave and 38% remain, making it one of the most heavily Leave areas in the country.Subdivisions of England
The subdivisions of England constitute a hierarchy of administrative divisions and non-administrative ceremonial areas.
Overall, England is divided into nine regions and 48 ceremonial counties, although these have only a limited role in public policy. For the purposes of local government, the country is divided into counties, districts and parishes. In some areas, counties and districts form a two-tier administrative structure, while in others they are combined under a unitary authority. Parishes cover only part of England.
The current system is the result of incremental reform which has its origins in legislation enacted in 1965 and 1972.Tyne and Wear
Tyne and Wear () is a metropolitan county in the North East region of England around the mouths of the rivers Tyne and Wear. It came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. It consists of the five metropolitan boroughs of South Tyneside, North Tyneside, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and City of Sunderland. It is bounded on the east by the North Sea, and has borders with Northumberland to the north and County Durham to the south.
Prior to the 1974 reforms, the territory now covered by the county of Tyne and Wear straddled the border between the counties of Northumberland and Durham, the border being marked by the river Tyne; that territory also included five county boroughs.
Tyne and Wear County Council was abolished in 1986, and so its districts (the metropolitan boroughs) are now unitary authorities. However, the metropolitan county continues to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and as a ceremonial county.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.West Midlands (county)
The West Midlands is a metropolitan county in western-central England with a 2014 estimated population of 2,808,356, making it the second most populous county in England after Greater London. It came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972, formed from parts of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The county itself is a NUTS 2 region within the wider NUTS 1 region of the same name. The county consists of seven metropolitan boroughs: the City of Birmingham, the City of Coventry and the City of Wolverhampton, as well as the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.
The metropolitan county exists in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and as a ceremonial county it has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. Between 1974 and 1986, the West Midlands County Council was the administrative body covering the county; this was abolished on 31 March 1986, and the constituent metropolitan boroughs effectively became unitary authorities. A new administrative body for the county (and some of the district surrounding it as Non-Constituent members), the West Midlands Combined Authority, was created in June 2016. Since May 2017, the authority has been headed by a directly elected Mayor of the West Midlands, a position currently held by Andy Street of the Conservative Party. Other county-wide bodies include the West Midlands Police, the West Midlands Fire Service and Transport for West Midlands.
The county is sometimes described as the "West Midlands metropolitan area" or the "West Midlands conurbation", although these have different, and less clearly defined, boundaries. The main conurbation, or urban area, does not include Coventry for example. The name "West Midlands" is also used for the much larger West Midlands region, which sometimes causes confusion, not surprising perhaps when geographically it is on the eastern side of the region, the western side comprising Shropshire and Herefordshire.West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is a metropolitan county in England. It is an inland and in relative terms upland county having eastward-draining valleys while taking in moors of the Pennines and has a population of 2.2 million. West Yorkshire came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972.West Yorkshire consists of five metropolitan boroughs (City of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, City of Leeds and City of Wakefield) and is bordered by the counties of Derbyshire to the south, Greater Manchester to the south-west, Lancashire to the north-west, North Yorkshire to the north and east, and South Yorkshire to the south and south-east.
Remnants of strong coal, wool and iron ore industries remain in the county, having attracted people over the centuries, and this can be seen in the buildings and architecture. Major railways and two major motorways traverse the county, which also contains Leeds Bradford International Airport.
West Yorkshire County Council was abolished in 1986, so its five districts became effectively unitary authorities. However, the metropolitan county, which covers an area of 2,029 square kilometres (783 sq mi), continues to exist in law, and as a geographic frame of reference. Since 1 April 2014 West Yorkshire has been a combined authority area, with the local authorities pooling together some functions over transport and regeneration as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
West Yorkshire includes the West Yorkshire Urban Area, which is the biggest and most built-up urban area within the historic county boundaries of Yorkshire.
|United Kingdom local government|
|England local government|
|Northern Ireland local government|
|Scotland local government|
|Wales local government|
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical derivations in italics.