Local Authorities

In the United Kingdom, there are 398 local authorities, how these are structured varies between the four home nations, as well as within them.


In the majority of England, there are two tiers of local government, county and district authorities, where council services are split between the two.

Metropolitan areas, such as London, as well as certain shire areas, operate under a single tier system, where one council covers all services for that area.

In total, there are 333 local authorities in England, divided into 5 different types:

  • County
  • District
  • Unitary authority
  • London Borough
  • Metropolitan area

In two tier areas, the county councils (24) are responsible for social care, as well as education, transport, fire & public safety and waste management. The district councils (181) then cover neighbourhood services such as rubbish collection, council tax collections and planning applications.

In single tier areas, the unitary, metropolitan or London borough is responsible for all these services.

For some shire district councils (including unitary authorities), and all of the 36 metropolitan districts, the councils are referred to as either borough or city councils.

Below district and borough councils, there are parish, community and town councils. These are elected, and can help on a number of issues, such as providing allotments, bus shelters, community centres and grants to help local organisations.


Wales is split into 22 unitary authorities, which cover all aspects of local government. These authorities are all led by an elected leader and cabinet.


All 32 of Scotland’s local authorities are unitary authorities, led by an elected leader, cabinet, and a provost.

Northern Ireland

Similarly to Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland has 11 unitary authorities. However, these authorities have a committee system, where the chairperson or mayor is elected for a one-year term.

Local authority map example

Check out an example local authority map below.