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".
|Also known as:|
|Created by||Local Government Act 1972|
|Created||1 April 1974|
|Number||77 (as of 1 April 2009)|
|Possible status||Multiple districts with no county council (1)|
Multiple districts with county council (27)
Single district with unitary authority (49)
Prior to 1974 local government had been divided between single-tier county boroughs (the largest towns and cities) and two-tier administrative counties which were subdivided into municipal boroughs and urban and rural districts. The Local Government Act 1972, which came into effect on 1 April 1974, divided England outside Greater London and the six largest conurbations into thirty-nine non-metropolitan counties. Each county was divided into anywhere between two and fourteen non-metropolitan districts. There was a uniform two-tier system of local government with county councils dealing with "wide-area" services such as education, fire services and the police, and district councils exercising more local powers over areas such as planning, housing and refuse collection.
|Service||Non-metropolitan county||Non-metropolitan district||Unitary authority|
|Leisure and recreation|
As originally constituted, the non-metropolitan counties were largely based on existing counties, although they did include a number of innovations. Some counties were based on areas surrounding large county boroughs or were formed by the mergers of smaller counties. Examples of the first category are Avon (based on Bath and Bristol) and Cleveland (based on Teesside). Examples of the second category are Hereford and Worcester and Cumbria. The counties were adopted for all statutory purposes: a lord-lieutenant and high sheriff was appointed to each county, and they were also used for judicial administration, and definition of police force areas. The Royal Mail adopted the counties for postal purposes in most areas.
A Local Government Commission was appointed in 1992 to review the administrative structure of the non-metropolitan counties. It was anticipated that a system of unitary authorities would entirely replace the two-tier system. The Commission faced competing claims from former county boroughs wishing to regain unitary status and advocates for the restoration of such small counties as Herefordshire and Rutland. The review led to the introduction of unitary local government in some areas but not in others. In the majority of unitary authorities an existing district council took over powers from the county council. The 1972 Act required that all areas outside Greater London form part of a non-metropolitan county, and that all such counties should contain at least one district. Accordingly, the statutory instruments that effected the reorganisation separated the unitary districts from the county in which they were situated and constituted them as counties. The orders also provided that the provisions of the 1972 Act that every county should have a county council should not apply in the new counties, with the district council exercising the powers of the county council.
An exception was made in the case of Berkshire, which was retained with its existing boundaries in spite of the abolition of its county council and the creation of six unitary authorities. This was done in order to preserve its status as a royal county.
With the creation of numerous new non-metropolitan counties, the areas used for lieutenancy and shrievalty began to diverge from local government areas. This led to the development of ceremonial counties for these purposes, a fact recognised by the Lieutenancies Act 1997.
A further wave of unitary authorities were created in 2009 under the terms of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. While a number of new counties were created, several of the new authorities (such as Cornwall or Northumberland) continued to have the boundaries set in 1974.
The following list shows the original thirty-nine counties formed in 1974, subsequent changes in the 1990s, and further changes in 2009 and 2019.
|Non-metropolitan county 1974||Changes 1995–1998||Changes 2009||Changes 2019|
|Avon (6 districts)‡||1996: North West Somerset (unitary)
2005: renamed North Somerset†
|1996: Bath and North East Somerset (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: South Gloucestershire (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: City of Bristol (unitary)||None||None|
|Bedfordshire (4 districts)||1997: Bedfordshire (3 districts)||Bedford (unitary)||None|
|Central Bedfordshire (unitary)||None|
|1997: Luton (unitary)||None||None|
|Berkshire (Royal County)
|1998: The county council was abolished,
with each of the six district councils in the county becoming unitary authorities.
The Royal County of Berkshire was not abolished.
|Buckinghamshire (5 districts)||1997: Buckinghamshire (4 districts)||None||None|
|1997: Milton Keynes (unitary)||None||None|
|Cambridgeshire (6 districts)||1998: Cambridgeshire (5 districts)||None||None|
|1998: Peterborough (unitary)||None|
|Cheshire (8 districts)||1998: Cheshire (6 districts)||Cheshire East (unitary)||None|
|Cheshire West and Chester (unitary)||None|
|1998: Halton (unitary)||None||None|
|1998: Warrington (unitary)||None||None|
|Cleveland (4 districts)||1996: Hartlepool (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: Middlesbrough (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: Redcar and Cleveland (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: Stockton-on-Tees (unitary)||None||None|
|Cornwall (6 districts)||None||Became unitary||None|
|Cumbria (6 districts)||None||None||None|
|Derbyshire (9 districts)||1997: Derby (unitary)||None||None|
|1997: Derbyshire (8 districts)||None||None|
|Devon (10 districts)||1998: Devon (8 districts)||None||None|
|1998: Torbay (unitary)||None||None|
|1998: Plymouth (unitary)||None||None|
|Dorset (8 districts)||1997: Dorset (6 districts)||None||Dorset (unitary) (except Christchurch district)|
|1997: Bournemouth (unitary)||None||Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (unitary)|
|1997: Poole (unitary)||None|
|Durham (8 districts)||1997: Darlington (unitary)||None||None|
|1997: Durham (7 districts)||Became unitary||None|
|East Sussex (7 districts)||1997: East Sussex (5 districts)||None||None|
|1997: Brighton and Hove (unitary)||None||None|
|Essex (14 districts)||1998: Essex (12 districts)||None||None|
|1998: Southend-on-Sea (unitary)||None||None|
|1998: Thurrock (unitary)||None||None|
|Gloucestershire (6 districts)||None||None||None|
|Hampshire (13 districts)||1997: Hampshire (11 districts)||None||None|
|1997: Portsmouth (unitary)||None||None|
|1997: Southampton (unitary)||None||None|
|Hereford and Worcester (9 districts)||1998: Herefordshire (unitary)||None||None|
|1998: Worcestershire (6 districts)||None||None|
|Hertfordshire (10 districts)||None||None||None|
|Humberside (9 districts)||1996: East Riding of Yorkshire (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: City of Kingston upon Hull (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: North Lincolnshire (unitary)||None||None|
|1996: North East Lincolnshire (unitary)||None||None|
|Isle of Wight (2 districts)||1995: Became unitary||None||None|
|Kent (14 districts)||1998: Kent (12 districts)||None||None|
|1998: The Medway Towns (unitary)
1998: renamed Medway
|Lancashire (14 districts)||1998: Lancashire (12 districts)||None||None|
|1998: Blackburn with Darwen (unitary)||None||None|
|1998: Blackpool (unitary)||None||None|
|Leicestershire (9 districts)||1997: Leicestershire (7 districts)||None||None|
|1997: Leicester (unitary)||None||None|
|1997: Rutland (unitary)||None||None|
|Lincolnshire (7 districts)||None||None||None|
|Norfolk (7 districts)||None||None||None|
|North Yorkshire (8 districts)||1996: North Yorkshire (7 districts)||None||None|
|1996: York (unitary)||None||None|
|Northamptonshire (7 districts)||None||None||None|
|Northumberland (6 districts)||None||Became unitary||None|
|Nottinghamshire (8 districts)||1998: Nottinghamshire (7 districts)||None||None|
|1998: Nottingham (unitary)||None||None|
|Oxfordshire (5 districts)||None||None||None|
|Salop (6 districts)
1980: renamed Shropshire
|1998: Shropshire (5 districts)||Became unitary||None|
|1998: The Wrekin (unitary)
1998: Renamed Telford and Wrekin
|Somerset (5 districts)||None||None||Reduced to 4 districts through merger|
|Staffordshire (9 districts)||1997: Staffordshire (8 districts)||None||None|
|1997: Stoke-on-Trent (unitary)||None||None|
|Suffolk (7 districts)||None||None||Reduced to 5 districts through mergers|
|Surrey (11 districts)||None||None||None|
|Warwickshire (5 districts)||None||None||None|
|West Sussex (7 districts)||None||None||None|
|Wiltshire (5 districts)||1997: Wiltshire (4 districts)||Became unitary||None|
|1997: Thamesdown (unitary)
1997: renamed Swindon
† The name of the non-metropolitan district and district council was changed to "North Somerset" by resolution of the council 11 July 1995. However this did not change the name of the county which had the same area. The Local Government Changes for England (Miscellaneous Provision) Regulations 1995 gave district councils in a "county for which there is no county council and in which there is not more than one district" the additional power to change the name of the county. This was, however, not done until 2005.
‡ Avon, as a non-metropolitan county, was abolished in 1996, in accordance with Avon (Structural Change) Order 1995. 
In Wales there was not a distinction between metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, with all upper tier areas designated "counties". The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 amended the 1972 Act, abolishing the Welsh counties and creating instead new Welsh principal areas, some of which are also designated "counties". For the purposes of lieutenancy the counties constituted in 1974 were preserved.
Blackpool Council is the local authority of Blackpool, Lancashire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined.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.Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service
The Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service is the statutory emergency fire and rescue service for the non-metropolitan county of Gloucestershire, England. The service is run by Gloucestershire County Council.
The service's headquarters are located at the TriService Emergency Centre in Quedgeley, near Gloucester. Also operating from there are Gloucestershire Constabulary and South Western Ambulance Service.Hertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council is the upper-tier local authority for the non-metropolitan county of Hertfordshire, in England, the United Kingdom. After the elections in 2017, it consists of 78 councillors, and is controlled by the Conservative Party, which has 50 councillors, versus 19 Liberal Democrats and 9 Labour councillors. It is a member of the East of England Local Government Association.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.Luton Borough Council
Luton Borough Council is the local authority of Luton in Bedfordshire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. It is a member of the East of England Local Government Association.
It is made up of councillors from the 19 wards that split up the town. The current leaders of the council, Hazel Simmons, is in the Labour Party.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).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.North Lincolnshire Council
North Lincolnshire Council is the local authority of North Lincolnshire. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. It provides a full range of local government services including Council Tax billing, libraries, social services, processing planning applications, waste collection and disposal, and it is a local education authority.Shropshire Council
Shropshire Council is the local authority of Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) in England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined.
It replaced the former two-tier local government structure in the non-metropolitan county of Shropshire on 1 April 2009, which involved its immediate predecessor, Shropshire County Council, and five non-metropolitan district councils – Bridgnorth District Council, North Shropshire District Council, Oswestry Borough Council, Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council and South Shropshire District Council. These districts and their councils were abolished in the reorganisation.The area covered by Shropshire Council is 3,197 square kilometres, or 1,234 square miles. This is 91.7% of the ceremonial county of Shropshire, with the remainder being covered by the other unitary authority in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Council, which was established as a unitary authority in 1998. Shropshire is located in the West Midlands region of England, on the border with Wales.
The council's seat is at Shirehall in Shrewsbury, the largest town (with a population of 70,600) in the unitary authority's area and historic county town of Shropshire. The council, however, has numerous offices across the county and area committees meet in the former district headquarters at Oswestry, Wem, Ludlow and Bridgnorth. The area covered by Shropshire Council is rural, with the second largest town being Oswestry with a population of just 16,600. Prior to the 2009 reorganisation, Shropshire was the least populated two-tier area in England.Shropshire Council elections
Shropshire Council (prior to 1 April 2009, Shropshire County Council) is elected in full every four years.
The previous county council was the top-tier of local authorities in the non-metropolitan county of Shropshire, England. The new unitary authority (since 2009) is now the principal local authority of the non-metropolitan county. The county is entirely parished and elections to the town and parish councils also take place every four years – these have (as from 2013) all been aligned to coincide with the Shropshire Council elections.
In 1998, the district of Telford and Wrekin was removed from the non-metropolitan county of Shropshire, reducing the area covered and electorate of Shropshire (County) Council.
Since the last boundary changes in 2009, 74 councillors are elected from 63 electoral divisions (53 single member divisions, nine 2-member divisions and one 3-member electoral division).South Gloucestershire Council
South Gloucestershire Council is the local authority of South Gloucestershire, a unitary authority in the South West of England region. As a unitary authority it has the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. As such, it is administratively separate from the rest of Gloucestershire.
The council area elects 70 Councillors from 35 wards. Following the May 2015 local elections, South Gloucestershire Council comprises 40 Conservative Councillors, 16 Liberal Democrat Councillors, and 14 Labour Councillors. The current Chair of South Gloucestershire Council is Ian Blair (Liberal Democrat) and the current Vice Chair is Rachael Hunt (Conservative).
From 2019 onwards, South Gloucestershire Council will have revised ward boundaries following the enacted recommendations of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. South Gloucestershire will be represented by 61 councillors (9 fewer than at present) in 28 wards and those councillors will represent 9 three-councillor wards, 15 two-councillor wards and 4 one-councillor wards.Swindon Borough Council
Swindon Borough Council is the local authority of the Borough of Swindon in Wiltshire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. As such, it is administratively separate from the rest of Wiltshire. It was formed in 1997, replacing Thamesdown Borough Council.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.Warrington Borough Council
Warrington Borough Council is the local authority of Warrington. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. It provides a full range of local government services including Council Tax billing, libraries, social services, processing planning applications, waste collection and disposal, and it is a local education authority.
In September 2016, Warrington Borough Council became one of the first local councils in the UK to buy clean-tech bonds in Swindon Solar Park through its owner, specialist investment management firm Rockfire Capital.Wokingham Borough Council
Wokingham Borough Council is the local authority of the Borough of Wokingham in Berkshire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined.
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical derivations in italics.