1990s UK local government reform

1990s UK local government reform

The structure of local government in the United Kingdom underwent large changes in the 1990s. The system of two-tier local government introduced in the 1970s by the Local Government Act 1972 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 was abolished in Scotland and Wales on April 1, 1996, and replaced with unitary authorities. In England, some areas remained two-tier but many unitary authorities were created. No changes were made to local government in Northern Ireland.


Prior to the 1970s, the UK had had a mixed system of local government, with someareas being covered by a county council and a more local district council, while large towns had only a single tier of authority (in England and Wales these were termed county boroughs, and in Scotland 'counties of cities'). The Acts abolished the existing county boroughs or counties of cities, and created a uniform two-tier system of government with regions or counties, and districts.

In 1986, Margaret Thatcher's government abolished the county councils of the six metropolitan counties that had been created in 1974, along with the Greater London Council, effectively creating 68 new single-tier authorities: 32 London boroughs and 36 metropolitan boroughs.

In 1990, Thatcher's government introduced the Community Charge, popularly known as the Poll Tax, a new way of funding local councils based on a fixed per-head fee. This proved very unpopular, and led to riots. Eventually, Thatcher was ousted by her own party, and the new Conservative leader and Prime Minister, John Major, was pledged to abolish the Community Charge.

Legislation for the Council Tax was introduced and passed in the 1991/1992 session. Also at this time (opponentsWho|date=May 2008 have said that it was as a cover),Fact|date=May 2008 the government took the opportunity to review the structure of local government throughout Great Britain.


The Local Government Commission for England was established under the Local Government Act 1992, allowing the Secretary of State to order the Commission to undertake 'structural reviews' in specified areas, to create unitary authorities in the two-tier shire counties. After much political debate, the Commission's proposals resulted in the abolition of the counties of Avon, Cleveland, Hereford and Worcester and Humberside, created in 1974, the county council of Berkshire, and the creation of unitary authorities covering many of the larger urban districts of England.


The previous system in Scotland had been the regions and districts. These were quite unbalanced in terms of population — the Strathclyde region had nineteen districts and over two million people, whereas the Borders region had four districts and only 100,000 people.

The Act established 29 new 'council areas', and retained the three Island Councils. Variance in population was much less in the council areas, with just over half a million in the largest authority, City of Glasgow, compared to 50,000 in the smallest on the mainland, Clackmannanshire. These are however outliers, and only six are outside the range 75,000 to 250,000.

In some cases the names of traditional counties were revived as administrative areas, although often with vastly different borders.


In Wales the existing system was replaced with a new unitary system, of counties and county boroughs, the only difference between them now being the name (and the councils of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport are styled as cities).

The 1974 reform in Wales had abandoned use of the names of the historic counties of Wales as local government areas. This was partially reversed in 1996, with Anglesey, Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire all reappearing as local government areas, although not necessarily with their traditional borders.

The names and areas of the administrative counties abolished in 1996 remained in use (with modifications) as the preserved counties of Wales for purposes such as Lieutenancy.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Local Government Association — The Local Government Association is a body for advancing the interests of local authorities in England and WalesThe LGA has its Head Office at Local Government House (formerly Transport House) in Smith Square, Westminster. Its members are various …   Wikipedia

  • Local Government Act 1972 — Infobox UK Legislation short title=Local Government Act 1972 parliament=Parliament of the United Kingdom long title=An Act to make provision with respect to local government and the functions of local authorities in England and Wales; to amend… …   Wikipedia

  • List of articles about local government in the United Kingdom — This is a list of articles relating to local government in the United Kingdom and does not include specific entities or authorities: By country * List of counties of the United Kingdom* List of English districts by ethnic diversity * List of… …   Wikipedia

  • History of local government in Yorkshire — The history of local government in Yorkshire is unique and complex. Yorkshire is the largest historic English countyVision of Britain [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit page.jsp?u id=10134640 c id=10001043 Yorkshire ancient county] (… …   Wikipedia

  • History of local government in England — Local government in England, as with most aspects of government in England, is the result of gradual evolution of the last 1000 years. England has never possessed a constitution as such, with the result that modern administration (and the… …   Wikipedia

  • History of local government in the United Kingdom — The history of local government in the United Kingdom concerns the period after 1707, although local government itself pre dates the United Kingdom, having it origins in the Middle Ages. Its history is marked by a long period of very little… …   Wikipedia

  • Reform of the United Nations — expand|date=January 2007Since the late 1990s there have been many calls for reform of the United Nations (UN). However, there is little clarity or consensus about what reform might mean in practice. Both those who want the UN to play a greater… …   Wikipedia

  • Government of Massachusetts — The State House in Boston The form of Massachusetts government is provided by the Constitution of the Commonwealth. The legislative power is exercised by the bicameral General Court, which is composed of the Senate and House of Representatives.… …   Wikipedia

  • Government of South Korea — The Government of South Korea is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and judicial branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out… …   Wikipedia

  • Government-owned corporation — A government owned corporation, state owned company, state owned entity, state enterprise, publicly owned corporation, government business enterprise, or parastatal is a legal entity created by a government to undertake commercial activities on… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.