Local Government

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Go through each of these, in order:

This is a brilliant short guide to Local Government, extremely useful for this page. Published by the Local Government Association. https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/lg-group-quick-guide-loca-971.pdf


In the UK, there is no consistent system of administration across all countries; distribution of functions varyies according to local arrangements.

Executive arrangements

Overview and Scrutiny

Centre for Public Scrutiny


  • Apr.20.2018: Councils ‘could save millions on energy’. Councils could save £tens of millions in energy costs after a survey found that more than 95% still rely on the “Big Six” energy suppliers. Of 273 councils, 92 were contracted to npower, 45 to EDF Energy, 8 to SSE, 5 to Eon, 5 to Scottish Power and 3 to British Gas. A further 85 used other large suppliers, 9 used smaller suppliers and 21 did not know. Bulb, a challenger energy company, commissioned the research, which estimated that £863m of taxpayers’ money goes to the Big Six. Bulb said that local authorities could save money and help the environment by switching, as larger companies used less renewable energy than smaller competitors. None of the local authorities that responded had switched to a fully renewable supplier, despite many council leaders and mayors encouraging their residents to switch for environmental as well as cost reasons, eg. Greater London Authority, Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester and Preston (City of Preston, Lancashire § Preston City CouncilWikipedia-W.svg) City Councils. A report by the Local Government Association last year urged councils to think more carefully about energy procurement. Citizens UK said: “Councils have a responsibility to seek the best value for their residents, and spending on energy should be no different". . Sam Coates, The Times.


  • Dec.21.2018: Cuts to council services ‘will only get worse’. Councils will have to cut more services without extra funding once new arrangements to give them greater financial independence come into force after 2020, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned. The threat of shortfalls for other services is the result of funding changes to make councils more self-sufficient. From 2020, they will take more control of business rates as well as council tax. Philip Aldrick, The Times. See IFS article here.
  • Sept.28.2018: Yes we must take back control, not from Brussels – from Whitehall. While local council budgets plummet, centralised govt gains ever more power. "Take back control" - it drips with self-righteous empowerment. ... The most frequent comment was: “There is nothing we can do.” They have lost that crucial ingredient of democracy, a degree of empowerment. Brexit was the cruellest of deceptions. As of today, half the control that will supposedly be repatriated under Brexit is simply a lie. But who is we? There are two states in the UK, the central state and the local one. Local govt still delivers roughly 25% of all public services, but financial stringency means it does so overwhelmingly as a Whitehall agency. British sub-national govt is so impotent it is off the international graph for centralisation. It controls a derisory 1.6% of GDP, against 6% in France, 11% in Germany and 16% in Sweden. In one area after another, austerity has stripped councils of all discretionary spending. When the central state breaks both the back and the spirit of the local one, people respond as if to an emergency. But this is neither democratic, nor is it control. ... They had no revenue base and were hamstrung by central controls. “Returning” power from Brussels will not return it to these people. It will return nothing. The winners from hard Brexit will be a London parliament and a London civil service. While town halls are frantically sacking staff, Whitehall has stopped cutting, and has recruited over 11,000 extra officials. Its employment rose 3% last year. The Institute for Government estimates Brexit is now costing taxpayers £2bn in staff alone. The arrogance of Westminster’s hard Brexiters is no different from that of Brussels. It is a desire by those with power to accrete more of it. Britain’s central state is not uniquely competent - week after week, the National Audit Office reports a litany of Whitehall incompetence: on NHS computing, naval procurement, Carillion contracting, railway franchising, prisons administration. If Whitehall ran a local council, half of it would be in special measures. This is not a matter of left or rightwing ideology. It is a battle over how to regenerate elective democracy at the grassroots. Politicians love it in opposition, never in power. Simon Jenkins, The Guardian.
  • Aug.02.2018: The Guardian view on councils in crisis: paying the price for dogma. Northamptonshire county council is preparing to impose unheard-of levels of cuts. But the underlying problems are nationwide and require big solutions. Conservatives have toned down the rhetoric of austerity as the price tag attached has become simply too obvious to all. Last month the Tory leader of the Local Government Association warned that councils risked being “damaged beyond recognition” and communities depleted of vital services unless central govt helps to fill the £8bn hole that will open up by 2023. Ministers plan to investigate whether the govt’s own policies are to blame for the sharp rise in the use of food banks – though they could save official resources by looking at the evidence already available. Above all, the Conservatives should end their catastrophic commitment to austerity at all costs. It has savaged public services and dragged families into misery. Editorial, The Guardian.
  • Mar.08.2018: One in ten councils faces going bust over the soaring cost of elderly care. The National Audit Office (NAO) warned that many councils were on the verge of insolvency having had their central govt funding cut by almost 50% in 8 years. Govt cuts have led councils to: reduce bin collections by 33%; reduce food hygience checks on cafes and restaurants by 41%; closed Sure Start centres and services for young people to save £1.6 bn; cut bus route subsidies by 48%; close 10% of libraries; 67% fewer Health and Safety enforcement notices handed out. Despite the cuts, councils are still unable to balance their books due to the increased demand for social care combined with cost pressures such as the new national minimum wage. Oliver Wright, The Times.


The upper-tier subdivisions of England are the nine regions, now used primarily for statistical purposes. One region, Greater London, has had a directly elected assembly and mayor since 2000 following popular support for the proposal in a referendum. It was intended that other regions would also be given their own elected regional assemblies, but a proposed assembly in the North East region was rejected by a referendum in 2004. Below the regional tier, some parts of England have county councils and district councils and others have unitary authorities; while London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London. Councillors are elected by the first-past-the-post system in single-member wards or by the multi-member plurality system in multi-member wards.


For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 council areas, with wide variation in both size and population. The cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are separate council areas, as is the Highland Council, which includes a third of Scotland's area but only just over 200,000 people. Local councils are made up of elected councillors, of whom there are 1,223;[150] they are paid a part-time salary. Elections are conducted by single transferable vote in multi-member wards that elect either three or four councillors. Each council elects a Provost, or Convenor, to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area.


Local government in Wales consists of 22 unitary authorities. These include the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, which are unitary authorities in their own right.[151] Elections are held every four years under the first-past-the-post system.[151]

Northern Ireland

Local government in Northern Ireland has since 1973 been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote. Their powers are limited to services such as collecting waste, controlling dogs and maintaining parks and cemeteries. In 2008 the executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils and replace the present system.