The borough was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, as a merger of the former county borough of Great Yarmouth, along with part of Blofield and Flegg Rural District, and also part of the Lothingland Rural District in East Suffolk.
Elections to the borough council are held in three out of every four years, with one third of the currently 39 seats on the council being elected at each election. Since the first election in 1973 the Conservatives have had a majority from 1973 to 1980 and from 1983 to 1986, while Labour had control from 1990 to 2000. More recently the Conservatives won control at the 2000 election and ran the council from then until they lost control to Labour in again in 2012 . As of the 2012 election the council is composed of the following councillors:-
The borough comprises the urban area of Great Yarmouth itself, together with 21 surrounding parishes. At the time of the 2001 census, the borough had an area of 182 km², of which 26 km² was in the urban area and 156 km² in the surrounding parishes. The borough had a population of 90,810 in 39,380 households, with 47,288 people in 21,007 households living in the urban area, whilst 43,522 people in 18,373 households lived in the surrounding parishes.
Besides Great Yarmouth itself, other significant settlements in the borough include:
The urban area of Great Yarmouth itself is unparished. The remainder of the district comprises the following civil parishes:
† formerly part of Lothingland Rural District