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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 Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration Public administration is the implementation of government policy Public policy is a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a 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 309 districts made up of 36
metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of districts of England, 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 ...
s, 32
London boroughs The London boroughs are the 32 local authority districts that make up the ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as cerem ...

London boroughs
, 181
non-metropolitan district Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguish from unofficial city distri ...
s and 58
unitary authorities A unitary authority is a local authority Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration within a particular sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized gove ...
, as well as the
City of London The City of London is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It ...

City of London
and
Isles of Scilly The Isles of Scilly (; kw, Syllan or ') is an archipelago off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, England. One of the islands, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, St Agnes, is the most southerly point in Great Britain, Britain, being over further south ...
which are also districts, but do not correspond to any of these categories. Some districts are styled as
cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings grouped to ...
,
borough A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for ...
s or
royal borough The following list of place names with royal patronage in the United Kingdom includes both those granted a royal title or status by express wish of a specific monarch, and those with prefixes or suffixes such as "King's" or "Regis" that relate to ...
s; these are purely honorific titles and do not alter the status of the district or the powers of their councils. All boroughs and cities (and a few districts) are led by a
mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official An official is someone who holds an office (function or , regardless whether it carries an actual with it) in an or government and participates in the exercise of , (either their ow ...
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.


History

Prior to the establishment of districts in the 1890s, the basic unit of local government in England was the parish, overseen by the
parish church A parish church (or parochial church) in Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Je ...
vestry committee A vestry was a committee for the local secular and ecclesiastical government for a parish in England and Wales, which originally met in the vestry or sacristy of the parish church, and consequently became known colloquially as the "vestry". For m ...
. Vestries dealt with the administration of both
parochial Parochial is an adjective which may refer to: * Parish A parish is a territorial entity in many Christianity, Christian denominations, constituting a division within a diocese. A parish is under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of a pr ...
and
secular Secularity, also the secular or secularness (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...

secular
governmental matters. Parishes were the successors of the manorial system and historically had been grouped into
hundreds A hundred is the natural number following 99 and preceding 101. Hundred may also refer to: Units and divisions * Hundred (word) formerly also equal to 120 or other values * Hundred (unit) sometimes equal to 120 or other values ** Hundredweight (cw ...
, which had exercised some supervising administrative function. However, these powers ebbed away as more and more civic and
judicial The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government i ...
powers were centred on
county towns In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, Ireland, a county town is the most important town or city in a county. It is usually the location of administrative or judicial functions within a county and the place where the county's members of ...
.Mapping the Hundreds of England and Wales in GIS
University of Cambridge Department of Geography, published 06-06-08, accessed 12 October 2011 From 1834 these parishes were grouped into
Poor Law Union A poor law union was a geographical territory, and early local government unit, in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Poor law unions existed in England and Wales from 1834 to 1930 for the administration of poor relief In Kingdom of England, Eng ...
s, creating areas for administration of the
Poor Law In English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World langu ...
. These areas were later used for census registration and as the basis for sanitary provision. In 1894, based on these earlier subdivisions, the
Local Government Act 1894 The Local Government Act 1894 (56 & 57 Vict. c. 73) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organi ...
created urban districts and
rural district#REDIRECT Rural district Rural districts were a type of local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration within a particular sovereign state. This particular usage of the word government refers spe ...
s as sub-divisions of
administrative counties An administrative county was a first-level administrative division in England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England ...
, which had been created in 1889. At the same time, parish-level local government administration was transferred to
civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration Public administration is the implementation of public policy, gove ...
es. Another reform in 1900 created 28
metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of districts of England, 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 ...
s as sub-divisions of the
County of London The County of London was a county of England from 1889 to 1965, corresponding to the area known today as Inner London. It was created as part of the general introduction of elected county government in England, by way of the Local Government Ac ...
. The setting-down of the current structure of districts in England began in 1965, when Greater London and its 32
London boroughs The London boroughs are the 32 local authority districts that make up the ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as cerem ...

London boroughs
were created. They are the oldest type of district still in use. In 1974, metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan counties (also known as " shire counties") were created across the rest of England and were split into metropolitan districts and
non-metropolitan district Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguish from unofficial city distri ...
s. The status of the London boroughs and metropolitan districts changed in 1986, when they absorbed the functions and some of the powers of the metropolitan county councils and the
Greater London Council The Greater London Council (GLC) was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London Greater London is an administrative area Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...
, which were abolished. Since 2000, powers are again shared (on a different basis) with the
Greater London Authority The Greater London Authority (GLA), colloquially known by the metonym "City Hall", is the devolved Devolution is the statutory delegation of powers from the central government A central government is the government A gove ...
. During the 1990s a further kind of district was created, the
unitary authority A unitary authority is a local authority Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration Public administration is the implementation of public policy, government policy and also an academic discipline that s ...
, which combined the functions and status of county and district.


Metropolitan boroughs

Metropolitan boroughs are a subdivision of a
metropolitan county The metropolitan counties are a type of county-level administrative division Administrative division, administrative unit,Article 3(1). country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many ...
. These are similar to unitary authorities, as the metropolitan county councils were abolished in 1986. Most of the powers of the county councils were devolved to the districts but some services are run by joint boards and organisations. The districts typically have populations of 174,000 to 1.1 million.


Non-metropolitan districts (shire districts)

Non-metropolitan districts (also known as shire districts) are second-tier authorities, which share power with
county council A county council is the elected administrative body governing an area known as a county. This term has slightly different meanings in different countries. Members are elected in County Council elections. Ireland The county councils created und ...
s. They are subdivisions of shire counties and the most common type of district. These districts typically have populations of 25,000 to 200,000. In this two-tier system, county councils are responsible for some local services, such as education, social services, and roads, while district councils run other services, such as waste collection, local planning, and
council housing Public housing (known as ''council housing'' or ''social housing'' in the UK) provided the majority of rented accommodation in the United Kingdom until 2011 when the number of households in private rental housing surpassed the number in social h ...
. The number of non-metropolitan districts has varied over time. Initially there were 296; after the creation of unitary authorities in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, their numbers were reduced to 192.


Unitary authorities

These are single-tier districts which are responsible for running all local services in their areas, combining both county and district functions. They were created in the mid-1990s out of non-metropolitan districts, and often cover large towns and cities as this is deemed to be more efficient than a two-tier structure. In addition, some of the smaller counties such as
Rutland Rutland () is a Counties of England, county in the East Midlands of England, bounded to the west and north by Leicestershire, to the northeast by Lincolnshire and the southeast by Northamptonshire. Its greatest length north to south is on ...

Rutland
,
Herefordshire Herefordshire () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), Willia ...

Herefordshire
and the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
are unitary authorities. There are a total of 56 unitary authorities, including one introduced in 2020. Unitary authorities are actually a slightly modified type of non-metropolitan district; most are established as individual counties containing a single district, with a district council but no county council.
Berkshire Berkshire ( ; in the 17th century sometimes spelt phonetically as Barkeshire; abbreviated Berks.) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers ...

Berkshire
is unusual, being a non-metropolitan county with no county council and six unitary authority districts.
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a historic county and ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are ar ...

Cornwall
, Durham, the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
,
Northumberland Northumberland () is a ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are areas of England to which lord-li ...

Northumberland
,
Shropshire Shropshire (; alternatively Salop; abbreviated in print only as Shrops; demonym Salopian ) is a landlocked historic Counties of England, county in the West Midlands (region), West Midlands region of England. It is bordered by Wales to the we ...

Shropshire
and
Wiltshire Wiltshire (; abbreviated Wilts) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England with an area of . It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The count ...
were established as counties with a single district, but have non-metropolitan county councils with no district council. In practice, these function in the same way as other unitary authorities.


London boroughs

The London boroughs are sub-divisions of
Greater London Greater London is an Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England, administrative area governed by the Greater London Authority, and a Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county of England that covers the bulk of the same area ...

Greater London
. They were established in 1965. Between 1965 and 1986 a two-tier structure of government existed in Greater London and the boroughs shared power with the
Greater London Council The Greater London Council (GLC) was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London Greater London is an administrative area Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...
(GLC). When the GLC was abolished in 1986 they gained similar status to the unitary authorities. In 2000 the
Greater London Authority The Greater London Authority (GLA), colloquially known by the metonym "City Hall", is the devolved Devolution is the statutory delegation of powers from the central government A central government is the government A gove ...
was established and a two-tier structure was restored, albeit with a change to the balance of powers and responsibilities. Each London borough is responsible for many of the services within their area, such as schools, waste management, planning applications, social services, libraries and others.


Map


See also

*
List of English districts by population This is a list of the 314 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 used for the purposes of . As the str ...
*
List of English districts by area This is a list of 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 pu ...
*
List of local governments in the United KingdomThis is a list of articles relating to present and past types of local government in the United Kingdom Local government in the United Kingdom has origins that pre-date the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela ...


References

{{Navboxes , list= {{Subdivisions of England {{Administrative geography of the United Kingdom {{England topics Districts, English01 Types of subdivision in the United Kingdom LAU 1 statistical regions of the European Union