The structure of your local authority can vary depending on where in the country you live and whether you live in a city, a large town or in a small village.

There are five types of local authority in England:

  • County councils
  • District councils
  • Unitary authorities
  • Metropolitan boroughs or districts
  • London boroughs

Most areas of the country operate a two tier system with both county and district councils.

County councils

County councils cover the whole of the county and provide the majority of public services in their particular area, including:

  • Education
  • Highways
  • Transport planning
  • Passenger transport
  • Fire and public safety
  • Social care
  • Libraries
  • Waste disposal
  • Strategic planning

District councils

Each county council is split into several smaller areas called district councils, borough councils or city councils which provide more local services, including:

  • Housing
  • Leisure
  • Recreation
  • Environmental health
  • Waste collection
  • Planning applications
  • Local council taxation collections

Larger towns and cities and some small counties only have a one tier system of local government.

Unitary authorities

Unitary Authorities or Metropolitan boroughs can be called metropolitan or city councils, borough councils, county councils, or district councils and are responsible for all the services in their area.

In London and metropolitan areas some services, like fire, police and public transport, are provided through ‘joint authorities’ for example in London by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Some parts of England have a third tier of local government call town or parish councils.

Parish, community and town councils

These operate at a level below district and borough councils and in some cases, unitary authorities.

They’re elected and are responsible for smaller local services, including:

  • Allotments
  • Public clocks
  • Bus shelters
  • Burial grounds
  • Community centres / Village halls
  • Play areas and play equipment
  • Grants to help local organisations
  • Consultation on neighbourhood planning

They also have the power to issue fines for:

  • Litter
  • Graffiti
  • Fly posting
  • Dog offences

Joint services

Some local authorities share services covering a wider area, like police, fire services and public transport. This may be done to avoid splitting up services when council structures are changed, or because some councils are too small to run an effective service on their own.

Every part of the UK is covered by a local authority fire and rescue service. Each authority must by law provide a firefighting service and must maintain a brigade to meet all normal requirements. Each fire authority appoints a Chief Fire Officer, who has day-to-day control of operations.

Your Local Council

To locate your local council and the details of how to contact them, click here.

For a full explanation of how your local council works, decision making, spending and councillor elections go to the GOV.UK website.

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