Local government in the Isle of Man

Local government in the Isle of Man

Local government ( _gv. gurneilys ynnydagh) on the Isle of Man is based around the concept of ancient parishes. There are three types of local authorities: a borough corporation, town commissions, and parish commissions.


The Isle of Man is divided into six administrative districts, called sheadings. The six sheadings are Ayre, Glenfaba, Garff, Michael, Rushen and Middle. The sheadings form the basis of some constituencies and each has a coroner. In the Isle of Man, coroners have responsibilities that would belong to the sheriff or bailiff in the United Kingdom, and this office should not be confused with that of Coroner for Inquests, a role usually fulfilled by the High Bailiff. A person may fulfil the role of coroner for more than one sheading at the same time.


The origins of the term 'sheading' are unclear. There are three main possibilities:
* from the Norse word "skeid" – meaning ship-assembly, with each sheading providing men for a warship
* from a Celtic word meaning 'sixth part' – with the sheadings having been a 14th century Scottish introduction
* from the Middle English word for an administrative division, "scheding" – with the sheadings having been introduced following English rule in the late 14th century

The earliest map to indicate sheadings was produced in 1644.

heading changes

* Onchan parish was transferred from Garff to Middle sheading in 1796


The parishes have ecclesiastical roots, are thought to have introduced to the island in the 11th century from Scotland, the bishopric having been established in the 10th century. Parish boundaries were originally related to physical features.

The parishes of each sheading of the Isle of Man are:

* Ayre - Andreas, Bride, Lezayre
* Garff - Lonan, Maughold, Onchan ("Kione Droghad")
* Glenfaba - German, Patrick
* Michael - Ballaugh ("Balley ny Loughey"), Jurby ("Jourbee"), Michael ("Mael")
* Middle - Braddan, Marown, Santon
* Rushen - Arbory, Rushen ("Rosien"), Malew

Modern local government

1852: Town Commissioners

The Town Act 1852 created the first local government in the island by designating Castletown, Douglas, Peel and Ramsey as towns, each with an elected board of Town Commissioners chaired by the existing office of High Bailiff. Responsibilities of the commissioners were "paving, cleansing, lighting, and watching the streets… Making and keeping in repair public sewers therein, and otherwise improving” the towns.

These initial boards of Town Commissioners were replaced under subsequent acts in each town – in 1860 in Douglas, in 1864 in Ramsey, and in 1883 in Castletown and Peel. The town boundaries have been increased over time as appropriate in relation to new development.

1884: Sanitary District

The Public Health Act 1884 permitted the creation of elected sanitary authorities for sanitary districts. Port Erin was the only sanitary district so defined.

1886: Village Commissioners

The Local Government Act 1886 allowed Tynwald to pass resolutions to create village districts with elected boards of Village Commissioners. The first board of Village Commissioners was created for Port Erin in 1884.

In 1890 Port St. Mary was given Village Commissioners, followed by Laxey and Onchan in 1895, and finally Michael in 1905

1894: Parish Commissioners

The Local Government Amendment Act 1894 created boards of Parish Commissioners for each of the seventeen ancient parishes. The Parish Commissioners controlled only those parts of the parish that were not under the jurisdiction of a board of Town or Village commissioners.

1896: Municipal borough

In 1896 Douglas was incorporated as a municipal borough by the Douglas Municipal Corporation Act 1895. The Douglas Town Commissioners were replaced with a municipal corporation named "The Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Douglas", acting through a borough council, consisting of a mayor, aldermen and councillors.

In 1989 the office of alderman was abolished, leaving the council composed of eighteen town councillors from six wards, from whom the mayor is selected each year (although in law the mayor need not be a councillor).

Although there are no longer any aldermen, the corporation's legal title is unchanged. As its name implies, it is a body corporate, but the borough council is not.

1938: Joint boards

In 1938 Tynwald passed an act allowing the then Local Government Board to create a "combination authority" consisting of members of two or more local authorities to exercise specified functions of those authorities. The Act has been replaced by provisions of the Local Government Act 1985, under which such authorities are now called "joint boards". (Joint boards can also be created under the Recreation and Leisure Act 1998.) A joint board is a body corporate, and its members are appointed from the commissioners or councillors of the constituent local authorities (and in some cases representatives of the Department of Local Government and the Environment). Joint boards are created for a specified purpose, and existing joint boards deal with refuse collection, sheltered accommodation, civic amenity sites, and swimming pools. (Local authorities also have power to set up "joint committees", which are similar to joint boards but are not bodies corporate.)

1986: District Commissioners

In 1986 the village district and the remainder of the parish of Onchan were merged to form a local government district, with a board of District Commissioners. Onchan maintains the original distinction between the village and the rest of the parish by electing the commissioners from an urban ward and a rural ward respectively.

This process was repeated for the village and the remainder of the parish of Michael in 1989.

Legally, both Onchan and Michael remain village districts.

1987: Department of Local Government and the Environment

In 1987 the Local Government Board was abolished. Its functions and powers were assumed by the new Department of Local Government and the Environment, headed by a Minister. DLGE is responsible for supervising the local authorities.

Local government today


* [http://www.gov.im/lib/docs/dlge/legislation/LA_Handbook.pdf Local Authority Handbook] , Department of Local Government and the Environment
* [http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/parishes/parishes.htm "A Manx Note Book" - Parishes] , Francis Coakley

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