Metropolitan Districts & London Borough Council Contact Telephone Numbers and Addresses
Borough Council Meaning
In the Middle Ages, boroughs were settlements in England that were granted some self-government; burghs were the Scottish equivalent. In medieval England, boroughs were also entitled to elect members of parliament. The use of the word borough probably derives from the burghal system of Alfred the Great. Alfred set up a system of defensive strong points (Burhs); in order to maintain these particular settlements, he granted them a degree of autonomy. After the Norman Conquest, when certain towns were granted self-governance, the concept of the burh/borough seems to have been reused to mean a self-governing settlement.
Borough Council Powers
Many parts of England have 2 tiers of local government:
- county councils
- district, borough or city councils
In some parts of the country, there’s just 1 (unitary) tier of local government providing all the local services. The 3 main types are:
- unitary authorities in shire areas
- London boroughs
- metropolitan boroughs
These are responsible for services across the whole of a county, like:
- fire and public safety
- social care
- waste management
- trading standards
District, borough and city councils
These cover a smaller area than county councils. They’re usually responsible for services like:
- rubbish collection
- Council Tax collections
- planning applications
Unitary authorities and London and metropolitan boroughs
In some parts of the country, 1 tier of local government provides all the local services listed above.
In London and metropolitan areas some services, like fire, police and public transport, are provided through ‘joint authorities’ (in London by the Greater London Authority).
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 can help on a number of local issues, like providing:
- public clocks
- bus shelters
- community centres
- play areas and play equipment
- grants to help local organisations
- consultation on neighbourhood planning
Regional authorities and Combined authorities
England has, since 1994 been subdivided into nine regions. One of these, London, has an elected Assembly and Mayor. The other regions no longer have any statutory bodies to execute any responsibilities.
Combined authorities were introduced in England outside Greater London by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 to cover areas larger than the existing local authorities but smaller than the regions. Combined authorities are created voluntarily and allow a group of local authorities to pool appropriate responsibility and receive certain delegated functions from central government in order to deliver transport and economic policy more effectively over a wider area. There are currently nine such authorities, with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority established on 1 April 2011, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and three others in April 2014, two in 2016 and two in 2017.
Two-tier non-metropolitan county
Below the region level and excluding London, England has two different patterns of local government in use. In some areas there is a county council responsible for services such as education, waste management and strategic planning within a county, with several non-metropolitan district councils responsible for services such as housing, waste collection and local planning. Both are principal councils and are elected in separate elections.
Some areas have only one level of local government. These are unitary authorities, which are also principal councils. Most of Greater London is governed by London borough councils. The City of London and the Isles of Scilly are sui generis authorities, pre-dating recent reforms of local government.
There is 125 ‘single tier’ authorities, which all function as billing authorities for Council Tax and local education authorities:
- 55 unitary authorities
- 36 metropolitan boroughs
- 32 London boroughs
- The Common Council of the City of London
- The Council of the Isles of Scilly
There is 33 ‘upper tier’ authorities. The non-metropolitan counties function as local education authorities:
- 27 non-metropolitan counties
- 6 metropolitan counties (councils abolished in 1986)
There is 201 ‘lower tier’ authorities, which all have the function of billing authority for Council Tax:
- 201 non-metropolitan districts
There are in total 353 principal councils, not including the Corporation of London, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, or the Inner Temple and Middle Temple, the last two of which are also local authorities for some purposes.
Below the district level, a district may be divided into several civil parishes. Typical activities undertaken by a parish council include allotments, parks, public clocks, and entering Britain in Bloom. They also have a consultative role in planning. Councils such as districts, counties and unitaries are known as principal local authorities in order to differentiate them in their legal status from parish and town councils, which are not uniform in their existence. Local councils tend not to exist in metropolitan areas but there is nothing to stop their establishment. For example, Birmingham has a parish, New Frankley. Parishes have not existed in Greater London since 1965, but from 2007 they could legally be created. In some districts, the rural area is parished and the urban is not — such as the Borough of Hinckley and Bosworth, where the town of Hinckley is unparished and has no local councils, while the countryside around the town is parished. In others, there is a more complex mixture, as in the case of the Borough of Kettering, where the small towns of Burton Latimer, Desborough and Rothwell are parished, while Kettering town itself is not. In addition, among the rural parishes, two share a joint parish council and two have no council but are governed by an annual parish meeting