City and county councils
Norwich has been governed by two tiers of local government since the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972. The upper tier is Norfolk County Council, which manages strategic services such as schools, social services and libraries across the county of Norfolk. The lower tier is Norwich City Council, which manages local services such as housing, planning, leisure and tourism.
Norwich elects 13 county councillors to the 84-member county council. The city is divided into single-member electoral divisions, and county councillors are elected every four years.
Norwich City Council consists of 39 councillors elected to represent 13 wards — three councillors per ward. Elections are held by thirds, where one councillor in each ward is elected annually for a four-year term, except in the year of county council elections. As a result of ward boundary changes, all 39 seats were contested in the 2019 Norwich City Council election. Following the 2019 election, the distribution of council seats is Labour 27, Green Party 9, and Liberal Democrats 3, with Labour maintaining overall control.
Lord mayoralty and shrievalty
, the seat of local government from the early 15th century until 1938
The ceremonial head of the city is the Lord Mayor; though now simply a ceremonial position, in the past the office carried considerable authority, with executive powers over the finances and affairs of the city council. As of 2019-2020 , the Lord Mayor is Cllr. Vaughan Thomas, and the Sheriff, Dr. Marian Prinsley. The office of mayor of Norwich dates from 1403 and was raised to the dignity of lord mayor in 1910 by Edward VII "in view of the position occupied by that city as the chief city of East Anglia and of its close association with His Majesty". The title was regranted on local government reorganisation in 1974. From 1404 the citizens of Norwich, as a county corporate, had the privilege of electing two sheriffs. Under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 this number of sheriffs was reduced to one, and it became an entirely ceremonial post. Both Lord Mayor and Sheriff are elected at the council's annual meeting.
Unitary status proposal
In October 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government produced a Local Government White Paper inviting councils to submit proposals for unitary restructuring. Norwich submitted its proposal in January 2007, which was rejected in December 2007, as it did not meet all the rigorous criteria for acceptance. In February 2008, the Boundary Committee for England (from 1 April 2010 incorporated in the Local Government Boundary Commission for England), was asked to consider alternative proposals for the whole or part of Norfolk, including whether Norwich should become a unitary authority, separate from Norfolk County Council. In December 2009, the Boundary Committee recommended a single unitary authority covering all of Norfolk, including Norwich.
However, in February 2010, it was announced that, contrary to the December 2009 recommendation of the Boundary Committee, Norwich would be given separate unitary status. The proposed change was strongly resisted, principally by Norfolk County Council and the Conservative opposition in Parliament. Reacting to the announcement, Norfolk County Council said it would look to challenge the decision in the courts. A letter was leaked to the local media, in which the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government noted that the decision did not meet all the criteria and that the risk of it "being successfully challenged in judicial review proceedings is very high." The Shadow Local Government and Planning Minister, Bob Neill, stated that should the Conservative Party win the 2010 general election, they would reverse the decision.
Following the 2010 general election, Eric Pickles was appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in a Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. According to press reports, he instructed his department to take urgent steps to reverse the decision and maintain the status quo in line with the Conservative Party manifesto. However, the unitary plans were supported by the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, and by Simon Wright, LibDem MP for Norwich South, who intended to lobby the party leadership to allow the changes to go ahead.
The Local Government Act 2010 to reverse the unitary decision for Norwich (and Exeter and Suffolk) received Royal Assent in December 2010. The disputed award of unitary status had meanwhile been referred to the High Court, and in June 2010 the court ruled it unlawful and revoked it; the city failed to attain unitary status.
Since 1298 Norwich has returned two members of parliament to the House of Commons. Until 1950 the city was an undivided constituency, returning two MPs. Since that date, the area has been divided between two single-member constituencies: Norwich North and Norwich South. Both constituencies have proved to be marginal seats in recent elections; until 2010 switching between the Labour and Conservative parties.
Norwich North, which includes some rural wards of Broadland District, was held by Labour from 1950 to 1983 when it was gained by the Conservatives. Labour regained the seat in 1997, holding it until a by-election in 2009. The current MP is the Conservative, Chloe Smith, who held the seat in the 2015 General Election. Norwich South, which includes part of South Norfolk District, was held by Labour from February 1974 to 1983 when it was gained by the Conservatives. John Garrett regained the seat for Labour in 1987. Charles Clarke became Labour MP for Norwich South in 1997. In the 2010 General Election, Labour lost the seat to the Liberal Democrats, with Simon Wright becoming MP. At the 2015 General Election, Clive Lewis regained the seat for Labour.
In the 2017 General Election, both the incumbent 2015 MPs held their seats.