Unitary authorities of England

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Unitary authority
English unitary authorities 2009.svg
Category Local authority districts
Location England
Found in Regions
Number 55 (as of 2009)
Possible status Non-metropolitan county (49)
District of Berkshire (6)
Additional status Non-metropolitan district
Populations 40,000–500,000

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.

History

Background

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.[1] 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.[2]

1990s reform

A review in the 1990s was initiated to select non-metropolitan areas where new unitary authorities could be created.[3] 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.[2] 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.[2]

2009 changes

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.

Further reform

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.[4] 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 have been formed.[5][6][7]

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.[8][9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[citation needed]

Functions

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:[13]

Service Non-metropolitan county Non-metropolitan district Unitary authority
Education ☑Y ☑Y
Housing ☑Y ☑Y
Planning applications ☑Y ☑Y
Strategic planning ☑Y ☑Y
Transport planning ☑Y ☑Y
Passenger transport ☑Y ☑Y
Highways ☑Y ☑Y
Fire ☑Y ☑Y
Social services ☑Y ☑Y
Libraries ☑Y ☑Y
Leisure and recreation ☑Y ☑Y
Waste collection ☑Y ☑Y
Waste disposal ☑Y ☑Y
Environmental health ☑Y ☑Y
Revenue collection ☑Y ☑Y

Electoral arrangements

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.[14]

Current list

Unitary authority areas can additionally have the status of borough or city, although this has no effect on their powers or functions.

District Local authority Created Formed by
Bath and North East Somerset Bath and North East Somerset Council 1996 District gained county functions
Bedford Bedford Borough Council 2009 District gained county functions
Blackburn with Darwen Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
Blackpool Blackpool Council 1998 District gained county functions
Bournemouth Bournemouth Borough Council 1997 District gained county functions
Bracknell Forest Bracknell Forest Borough Council 1998 District gained Berkshire county functions
Brighton and Hove Brighton and Hove City Council 1997 District gained county functions
Bristolcerem Bristol City Council 1996 District gained county functions
Central Bedfordshire Central Bedfordshire Council 2009 District gained county functions
Cheshire East Cheshire East Council 2009 District gained county functions
Cheshire West and Chester Cheshire West and Chester Council 2009 District gained county functions
Cornwallcerem Cornwall Council 2009 County gained district functions
County Durhamcerem Durham County Council 2009 County gained district functions
Darlington Darlington Borough Council 1997 District gained county functions
Derby Derby City Council 1997 District gained county functions
East Riding of Yorkshirecerem East Riding of Yorkshire Council 1996 District gained county functions
Halton Halton Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
Hartlepool Hartlepool Borough Council 1996 District gained county functions
Herefordshirecerem Herefordshire Council 1998 District gained county functions
Isle of Wightcerem[15] Isle of Wight Council 1995 County gained district functions
Kingston upon Hull Hull City Council 1996 District gained county functions
Leicester Leicester City Council 1997 District gained county functions
Luton Luton Borough Council 1997 District gained county functions
Medway Medway Council 1998 District gained county functions
Middlesbrough Middlesbrough Borough Council 1996 District gained county functions
Milton Keynes Milton Keynes Council 1997 District gained county functions
North East Lincolnshire North East Lincolnshire Council 1996 District gained county functions
North Lincolnshire North Lincolnshire Council 1996 District gained county functions
North Somerset North Somerset Council 1996 District gained county functions
Northumberlandcerem Northumberland County Council 2009 County gained district functions
Nottingham Nottingham City Council 1998 District gained county functions
Peterborough Peterborough City Council 1998 District gained county functions
Plymouth Plymouth City Council 1998 District gained county functions
Poole Poole Borough Council 1997 District gained county functions
Portsmouth Portsmouth City Council 1997 District gained county functions
Reading Reading Borough Council 1998 District gained Berkshire county functions
Redcar and Cleveland Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council 1996 District gained county functions
Rutlandcerem Rutland County Council 1997 District gained county functions
Shropshirecerem Shropshire Council 2009 County gained district functions
Slough Slough Borough Council 1998 District gained Berkshire county functions
Southampton Southampton City Council 1997 District gained county functions
Southend-on-Sea Southend-on-Sea Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
South Gloucestershire South Gloucestershire Council 1996 District gained county functions
Stockton-on-Tees Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council 1996 District gained county functions
Stoke-on-Trent Stoke-on-Trent City Council 1998 District gained county functions
Swindon Swindon Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
Telford and Wrekin Telford and Wrekin Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
Thurrock Thurrock Council 1998 District gained county functions
Torbay Torbay Council 1998 District gained county functions
Warrington Warrington Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
West Berkshire West Berkshire Council 1998 District gained Berkshire county functions
Wiltshirecerem Wiltshire Council 2009 County gained district functions
Windsor and Maidenhead Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council 1998 District gained Berkshire county functions
Wokingham Wokingham Borough Council 1998 District gained county functions
York City of York Council 1996 District gained county functions

Similar authorities

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.[16] 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.

See also

Footnotes

References

  1. ^ Redcliffe-Maud Report I. vi 73, cited in Oxford English Dictionary Online, draft addendum February 2003, s.v. unitary. An earlier citation, in 1936, uses the term for the London County Council in the sense of an elected council for the whole of London.
  2. ^ a b c Atkinson, H. & Wilks-Heeg, S. (2000). Local Government from Thatcher to Blair. Polity.
  3. ^ Jones, Kavanagh, Moran & Norton (2004). Politics UK (5th ed.). Pearson.
  4. ^ "Future Dorset - Two new authorities for Dorset". futuredorset.co.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  5. ^ "The Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole (Structural Changes) Order 2018". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  6. ^ https://bcpjointcommittee.wordpress.com/
  7. ^ "Shadow Dorset Council". Shadow Dorset Council. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Decision on future of councils in Bucks could be decided imminently". Bucks Free Press. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  9. ^ https://www.wycombe.gov.uk/uploads/public/documents/About-the-council/Modernising-local-government/Proposal-for-modernising-local-government-in-Buckinghamshire.pdf
  10. ^ "Unitary plan for Buckinghamshire backed". 12 March 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  11. ^ "Troubled council 'should be scrapped'". 15 March 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Northamptonshire County Council 'should be split up', finds damning report". itv.com. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  13. ^ Frequently Asked Questions on the structural reviews of Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk, Boundary Commission for England
  14. ^ "Help using the election maps apps". openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  15. ^ "The Isle of Wight (Structural Change) Order 1994". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Isles of Scilly Order 1930" (PDF). Retrieved 7 November 2017.
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