Districts of England

District
Also known as:
Local authority district
Local government district
Districts of England.svg
Category Administrative district
Location England
Found in Counties
Created by Local Government Act 1972
London Government Act 1963
Created mostly 1 April 1974
and 1 April 1965
some earlier (see text)
Number 326 (as of 1 April 2009)
Possible types Metropolitan (36)
Non-metropolitan (256)
 ∟Two-tier (201)
 ∟ Unitary authority (55)
London borough (32)
sui generis (2)
Possible status City
Royal borough
Borough
Populations 25,000–1.1 million

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. [1] 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 326 districts made up of 36 metropolitan boroughs, 32 London boroughs, 201 non-metropolitan districts, 55 unitary authorities, as well as the City of London and the Isles of Scilly which are also districts, but do not correspond to any of these categories. Some districts are styled as boroughs, cities, or royal boroughs; these are purely honorific titles, and do not alter the status of the district. All boroughs and cities, and a few districts, are led by a mayor 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 vestry committee. Vestries dealt with the administraction of both parochial and secular governmental matters. Parishes were the successors of the manorial system and historically had been grouped into hundreds. Hundreds once exercised some supervising administrative function. However, these powers ebbed away as more and more civic and judicial powers were centred on county towns. [2] From 1834 these parishes were grouped into Poor Law Unions, creating areas for administration of the Poor Law. 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 created urban districts and rural districts as sub-divisions of administrative counties, which had been created in 1889. Another reform in 1900 created 28 metropolitan boroughs as sub-divisions of the County of London. Meanwhile, from this date parish-level local government administration was transferred to civil parishes.

The setting-down of the current structure of districts in England began in 1965, when Greater London and its 32 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 districts. 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 which were abolished. In London power is now shared again, albeit on a different basis, with the Greater London Authority.

During the 1990s a further kind of district was created, the unitary authority, which combined the functions and status of county and district.