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.
|Category||Local authority districts|
|Number||55 (as of 2019)|
|Possible status||Coterminous Non-metropolitan county and Non-metropolitan district (45)|
District of Berkshire (6)
District of Cleveland (4)
The term "unitary authority" was first used in the Redcliffe-Maud Report in 1969 in its current sense of a local government authority which combines the functions of a county council and a district council. Strictly speaking, the term does not necessarily mean a single level of local government within an area, because in some cases there are also parish councils in the same area.
Although the term was not applied to them, county boroughs between 1889 and 1974 were effectively unitary authorities, that is, single-tier administrative units. Before 1889, local government authorities had different powers and functions, but from medieval times some cities and towns had a high degree of autonomy as counties corporate. Some smaller settlements also enjoyed some degree of autonomy from regular administration as boroughs or liberties.
The Local Government Act 1972 created areas for local government where large towns and their rural hinterlands were administered together. The concept of unitary units was abandoned with a two-tier arrangement of county and district councils in all areas of England, except the Isles of Scilly where the small size and distance from the mainland made it impractical. In 1986 a broadly unitary system of local government was introduced in the six metropolitan counties and Greater London, where the upper-tier authorities were abolished and their functions were split between central government, the borough councils and joint boards.
A review in the 1990s was initiated to select non-metropolitan areas where new unitary authorities could be created. The resulting structural changes were implemented between 1995 and 1998. Bristol, Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight and Rutland were established as counties of a single district; the district councils of Berkshire became unitary; the counties of Avon, Humberside and Cleveland were broken up to create several unitary authorities; and a number of districts were split off from their associated counties. The changes caused the ceremonial counties to be defined separately, as they had been before 1974. The review caused 46 unitary authorities to be created.
A further review was initiated in 2007 and was enacted in 2009. The review established Cornwall and Northumberland as counties of a single district; established unitary authorities in County Durham, Shropshire and Wiltshire covering the part of the county that was not already split off in the 1990s review; and divided the remainder of Bedfordshire and Cheshire into two unitary authorities. The review caused nine unitary authorities to be created.
In 2016, Oxfordshire County Council put forward a 'One Oxfordshire' proposal which would see Oxford City Council and the four other district councils in Oxfordshire abolished and replaced with a single unitary county council for Oxfordshire. In 2017, Oxford City Council voiced their opposition to the proposal. A decision on whether the proposal will go ahead was to have been announced in March 2017.
In 2017, it was proposed that two unitary authorities be formed to cover the ceremonial county of Dorset. One of the authorities would consist of the existing unitary authorities of Bournemouth, Poole and the non-metropolitan district of Christchurch, the other would be composed of the remainder of the county. In November 2017, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid stated that he was "minded to approve the proposals" and a final decision to implement the two unitary authority model was confirmed in February 2018. Statutory instruments for the creation of two unitary authorities, to be named Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and Dorset Council, have been made and shadow authorities for the new council areas were formed ahead of their creation on 1 April 2019.
Two competing plans were drawn up for Buckinghamshire. One plan would see the abolition of the four district councils resulting in the existing county council becoming a unitary authority. The other plan would see the formation of two unitary authorities, one authority would be formed through the merger of the three existing districts of Chiltern, South Bucks Wycombe with the other formed by the existing Aylesbury Vale district becoming a unitary authority. In March 2018, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid indicated that he was minded to consider a single unitary authority option in preference to the two unitary authority model.
In March 2018, an independent report commissioned by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, proposed structural changes to local government in Northamptonshire. These changes would see the existing county council and district councils abolished and two new unitary authorities created in their place. One authority would consist of the existing districts of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire and the other authority would consist of Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough districts.
Unitary authorities combine the powers and functions that are normally delivered separately by the councils of non-metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan districts. These functions are housing, waste management, waste collection, council tax collection, education, libraries, social services, transport, planning, consumer protection, licensing, cemeteries and crematoria. The breakdown of these services is as follows:
|Service||Non-metropolitan county||Non-metropolitan district||Unitary authority|
|Leisure and recreation|
Most unitary authorities are divided into a number of multiple member wards from which councillors are elected in the same way as in two-tier district council elections. The exceptions, which are divided into electoral divisions as in county council elections, are Cornwall, County Durham, the Isle of Wight, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire.
Most unitary authorities are legally defined as being coterminous non-metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan districts run by a single council. While it makes no difference, they can either be run by a county council that additionally has district powers and functions, or a district council that additionally has county powers and functions. If there's a county council, the district has no council, and vice versa. Districts can additionally have the status of borough or city, although this has no effect on their powers or functions.
|Unitary Authority||Council||Created||Run by||Ceremonial County|
|Bath and North East Somerset||Bath and North East Somerset Council||1996||District||Somerset|
|Bedford||Bedford Borough Council||2009||District||Bedfordshire|
|Blackburn with Darwen||Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council||1998||District||Lancashire|
|Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole||Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council||2019||District||Dorset|
|Bracknell Forest||Bracknell Forest Borough Council||1998||District[a]||Berkshire|
|Brighton and Hove||Brighton and Hove City Council||1997||District||East Sussex|
|Bristol||Bristol City Council||1996||District||Bristol|
|Central Bedfordshire||Central Bedfordshire Council||2009||District||Bedfordshire|
|Cheshire East||Cheshire East Council||2009||District||Cheshire|
|Cheshire West and Chester||Cheshire West and Chester Council||2009||District||Cheshire|
|County Durham||Durham County Council||2009||County||County Durham|
|Darlington||Darlington Borough Council||1997||District||County Durham|
|Derby||Derby City Council||1997||District||Derbyshire|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||East Riding of Yorkshire Council||1996||District||East Riding of Yorkshire|
|Halton||Halton Borough Council||1998||District||Cheshire|
|Hartlepool||Hartlepool Borough Council||1996||District[b]||County Durham|
|Isle of Wight||Isle of Wight Council||1995||County||Isle of Wight|
|Kingston upon Hull||Hull City Council||1996||District||East Riding of Yorkshire|
|Leicester||Leicester City Council||1997||District||Leicestershire|
|Luton||Luton Borough Council||1997||District||Bedfordshire|
|Middlesbrough||Middlesbrough Borough Council||1996||District[b]||North Yorkshire|
|Milton Keynes||Milton Keynes Council||1997||District||Buckinghamshire|
|North East Lincolnshire||North East Lincolnshire Council||1996||District||Lincolnshire|
|North Lincolnshire||North Lincolnshire Council||1996||District||Lincolnshire|
|North Somerset||North Somerset Council||1996||District||Somerset|
|Northumberland||Northumberland County Council||2009||County||Northumberland|
|Nottingham||Nottingham City Council||1998||District||Nottinghamshire|
|Peterborough||Peterborough City Council||1998||District||Cambridgeshire|
|Plymouth||Plymouth City Council||1998||District||Devon|
|Portsmouth||Portsmouth City Council||1997||District||Hampshire|
|Reading||Reading Borough Council||1998||District[a]||Berkshire|
|Redcar and Cleveland||Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council||1996||District[b]||North Yorkshire|
|Rutland||Rutland County Council||1997||District||Rutland|
|Slough||Slough Borough Council||1998||District[a]||Berkshire|
|Southampton||Southampton City Council||1997||District||Hampshire|
|Southend-on-Sea||Southend-on-Sea Borough Council||1998||District||Essex|
|South Gloucestershire||South Gloucestershire Council||1996||District||Gloucester|
|Stockton-on-Tees||Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council||1996||District[b]||County Durham and North Yorkshire|
|Stoke-on-Trent||Stoke-on-Trent City Council||1998||District||Staffordshire|
|Swindon||Swindon Borough Council||1998||District||Wiltshire|
|Telford and Wrekin||Telford and Wrekin Borough Council||1998||District||Shropshire|
|Warrington||Warrington Borough Council||1998||District||Cheshire|
|West Berkshire||West Berkshire Council||1998||District[a]||Berkshire|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council||1998||District[a]||Berkshire|
|Wokingham||Wokingham Borough Council||1998||District[a]||Berkshire|
|York||City of York Council||1996||District||North Yorkshire|
The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a sui generis single-tier authority, created in 1890 and since 1930 has held the "powers, duties and liabilities" of a county council. It thus is not a Unitary Authority as those are such authorities created under the Local Government Act 1992. The 36 metropolitan borough councils are also the sole elected local government units in their areas (except for parish councils in a few locations), but share strategic functions with joint boards and arrangements. On the other hand, the City of London Corporation and the 32 London borough councils, although they have a high degree of autonomy, share strategic functions with the directly elected Mayor of London and London Assembly.
Unitary authorities should not be confused with another formation in English local government, the combined authority.
Chafford Hundred is a turn of the 21st century built settlement north-west of Grays, and south-east of South Ockendon in the Borough of Thurrock in the ceremonial county of Essex. Its station also serves, to its western side, intu Lakeside in the largely retail and distribution-dominated area of West Thurrock. It is located in the Chafford and North Stifford, and South Chafford wards in the unitary authority of Thurrock. Chafford Hundred was built on parts of the historical parishes of Stifford and West Thurrock, Mill Lane being the border of the respective historical parishes.Copeland (UK Parliament constituency)
Copeland is a constituency in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament created in 1983. The constituency is represented in Parliament by Trudy Harrison, of the Conservatives since a by-election in February 2017 and was retained at the snap 2017 general election four months later. The seat had been held by Labour candidates between 1983-2015.
Copeland is one of three Cumbria seats won (held or gained) by a Conservative candidate in 2017 out of a total of six covering its county. The bulk of this seat is in the Lake District and a large proportion of its population.Council of the Isles of Scilly
The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a sui generis unitary local government authority covering the Isles of Scilly off the west coast of Cornwall. It is currently made up of 16 seats, with all councillors being Independents as of 2 May 2013. The council was created in 1890 as the Isles of Scilly Rural District Council and was renamed in 1974.Esher and Walton (UK Parliament constituency)
Esher and Walton () is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament.The current MP is Dominic Raab of the Conservative Party.
Raab served as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from 9 July 2018 until resigning on 15 November 2018.List of unitary authorities of England
This is a list of unitary authorities of England ordered by population.
Figures are mid-year estimates for 2018 from the Office for National Statistics.
Areas from UK Standard Area MeasurementsMilton Keynes South (UK Parliament constituency)
Milton Keynes South is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since its 2010 creation by Iain Stewart, a Conservative.Newton Abbot (UK Parliament constituency)
Newton Abbot is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since its 2010 creation by Anne-Marie Morris. In each election Morris was elected as a Conservative. Morris was suspended from her party on 10 July 2017 after making a racist comment in public, and sat as an Independent MP until the Conservative Party whip was restored to Morris on 12 December 2017.North East Somerset (UK Parliament constituency)
North East Somerset is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament, since its 2010 creation, by Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative.Outline of England
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to England:
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Its 55,268,100 inhabitants account for more than 84% of the total UK population, while its mainland territory occupies most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain. England is bordered by Scotland to the north, Wales to the west and the North Sea, Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel and English Channel. The capital is London, the largest metropolitan area in Great Britain, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by many measures.Pendle (UK Parliament constituency)
Pendle is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Andrew Stephenson, a Conservative. The constituency was newly created for the 1983 general election, being largely formed from the former Nelson and Colne Constituency.Rochester and Strood (UK Parliament constituency)
Rochester and Strood is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2015 by Kelly Tolhurst, a Conservative.Romsey and Southampton North (UK Parliament constituency)
Romsey and Southampton North is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since its 2010 creation by Caroline Nokes, a Conservative. For the purposes of election expenses and type of returning officer it is a county constituency.Sittingbourne and Sheppey (UK Parliament constituency)
Sittingbourne and Sheppey is a constituency represented in the House of Commons since 2010 by Gordon Henderson, a Conservative.Stone (UK Parliament constituency)
Stone is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since its 1997 recreation by Bill Cash, a Conservative.Taunton Deane (UK Parliament constituency)
Taunton Deane is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament by Rebecca Pow of the Conservative Party.Torridge and West Devon (UK Parliament constituency)
Torridge and West Devon is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2005 by Geoffrey Cox, a Conservative.Truro and Falmouth (UK Parliament constituency)
Truro and Falmouth is a constituency that has been represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since its creation in 2010 by Sarah Newton, a Conservative MP.Westmorland and Lonsdale (UK Parliament constituency)
Westmorland and Lonsdale is a constituency in the south of Cumbria, represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2005 by Tim Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats (2015–2017).
|United Kingdom local government|
|England local government|
|Northern Ireland local government|
|Scotland local government|
|Wales local government|