administration in Britain - simply explained
Local government or administration in England
: the Local
On the face of it, the territorial administration of England seems
extremely complex; but in reality it is fairly simple compared to that
of many countries. Wheras a country like Germany has four
of administration - State, "Länder", district, and
in Britain there are only
one or two levels of local government -
called Local Authorities.
Apart from this, some minor and strictly local functions are delegated
councils , most often in the hands of volunteers.
The precise structure of
local government varies according to the nature of the territories.
The guiding principle is very simple
possible and desirable, there is one
single tier (or level)
of local government and administration - known as a "unitary
In some areas - London and many historic rural
there are two tiers
(levels) of local governement, with some services managed
jointly over a large area by the higher level of administration, others
at the lower level.
Where there are two tiers or levels of
local government, the main local public services are managed as follows:
the top tier (London council or county
councils) : strategic planning, transport, social services
(except in London), education (except in London), fire and police
the lower tier (borough or district councils) :
public housing, waste collection, local planning
with its Greater London
Authority (GLA) , chaired by the Mayor, is a unique
It is the only large urban area with two tiers of
In London, the administration of public services
is split between the GLA and
borough councils . London is the only
large city in
England to have two tiers of local government
The other six major urban areas of England, around the cities of
Leeds, Manchester , Liverpool (Merseyside), Sheffield and
Birmingham, are known as metropolitan counties.
Here there is only one single layer of local administration
However, the metropolitan counties themselves are
largely empty shells: they DO NOT HAVE any territorial administrative
function. All local
administration is ensured by the individual boroughs within
these metropolitan counties. It is the boroughs, not the metropolitan
counties, that are
authorities, i.e. the only
tier of local government for their
Nevertheless, for certain services, such as
police, fire and public transport, the boroughs within metropolitan
county areas work together in the framework of joint boards.
Outside major urban areas, England is divided into 76 non-metropolitan
counties , 75 have their own administration.
are two types of
non-metropolitan county, those that are "unitary
authorities" (i.e. there is only one level of local
and those that operate with a two-tier system.
Non metropolitan unitary
Most other large towns and cities in England (i.e. apart from London
and the metropolitan counties), and also some rural areas, are
administered as unitary authorities, with just a single level of local
government. Examples include the cities of
Southampton, Bristol, Bournemouth, Leicester, Blackpool, and rural
areas including Cornwall, North Somerset, the Isle of Wight, or West
Two tier counties
For the rest of England, most of
the rural " shires " or historic counties of England, such as
Norfolk, Herefordshire or most of Kent, there are here two levels of
local government; an upper level, called the "County council", and a
lower level made up of "district councils".
The system of local government in Scotland is even simpler than in
England. There are just 32 unitary authorities.
Cities and mayors
Most towns or cities in Britain are part of a district. Districts
managed by a District Council, under the direction of a leader
appointed by councillors. The person at the head of a district council
may be known as the Leader of the council, or as the Mayor. To prevent
the formation of small
local fiefdoms of personal power , mayors or council leaders are chosen
from local elected representatives for a term of one year, and the job
usually goes in turn to
different members of the executive.
English cities have a directly
elected mayor. The system was imposed in
London in 2000 and later other cities were allowed to create the post
of elected mayor, if this was approved by popular referendum. Only 16
cities / districts, including Liverpool
and Bristol, have so far voted to have an elected mayor; the idea has
been rejected by voters in
forty other cities. The powers of mayors and council leaders are
From 2008 to 2016, London's mayor was the Conservative Boris
Johnson. In 2016 however Londoners chose as their new mayor, by a large
margin, moderate Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim to
become mayor of a major European city.
The historic office of Lord
Mayor is largely ceremonial today. Thirty
British cities have a Lord
Mayor ( known in Scotland as a Lord Provost ) .
necessary to distinguish between the role of a mayor
and a lord mayor .
For example, London has its own elected mayor (currently Boris
Johnson) who is the leader of the GLA ( city council ). But the City of
London (which is just the historic centre of London), has a Lord
Mayor, who is
chosen by the corporation of the city of London, and, appointed for a
year. The Lord Mayor of London plays a mainly
ceremonial and public relations role for the City of London.
Parishes and parish
Parishes are a very ancient unit of territorial administration: they
corresponded in the past to the area served by one church. Today, this
may still be the case, though more generally parishes are the small
subdivisions of boroughs or districts. The powers of parish councils
are limited mainly to social issues, sport and culture, and perhaps
local parks and some local social services. Their
functions were defined in 1965 by the Royal Commission on Local
Government (Redcliffe -Maude Commission) .
However, since 2011, the Cameron
government, as part of its policy of reducing
the role and cost of local government, has given greater freedom of
action to parish councils. In many cases Parish councils are largely
unpaid volunteers; but councils have the power to decide whether or not
to give their members some form of remuneration or allowance for
services rendered to the community.
In Scotland, parish councils are known as community
Autonomous public services
While many public services are managed by local authorities, others are
autonomous public or private bodies, not controlled by local
authorities. This is notably the case for hospitals (managed by
hospital trusts), water supplies (delivered by private companies) and
an increasing number of state schools that have adopted the status of academies
or free schools, and
are funded directly by central government, and run by their own boards
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