Subdivisions of England: Wikis


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Structure of the subdivisions of England
Coat of Arms of the UK Government.

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The subdivisions of England consists of as many as four levels of subnational division and at some levels there are a variety of types of administrative entity. They have been created for the purposes of local government in England.

Some units combine the functions of two levels of local government, for example the Greater London administrative area is also the London region and unitary authorities are often counted as both county and district level entities.


Region level

At the top level England is divided into nine regions each containing one or more county-level entities. The regions were created in 1994 and since the 1999 Euro-elections have been used as England's European Parliament constituencies. All have the same status. However London is the only region with any substantial devolved power in the form of an elected mayor and the Greater London Authority. The regions also vary greatly in size, both in their areas covered and their populations.

Type Created Number Units
Region 1994 9 East · East Midlands · London · North East · North West · South East · South West · West Midlands · Yorkshire and the Humber

County level

Administratively, England is divided into two-tier and single-tier authorities; the higher level authorities in the two-tier structure are known as counties. There are three types of county in England, however these do not cover all of England; the remaining parts are the single-tier unitary authorities (see below).

For other (non-administrative) purposes, England is divided into what are known as ceremonial counties, although this is not an official term. Each ceremonial county, as definied by the Lieutenancies Act 1997, has a Lord Lieutenant who is historically the Crown's representative in the county. Ceremonial counties are often different from the administrative counties as they include the areas covered by unitary authorities, completely covering England. They are commonly used by people when describing where they live in England, and may be taken into consideration when drawing up Parliamentary constituency boundaries.

The shire counties and non-metropolitan unitary authorities are shown in pink, while the metropolitan counties are shown in red and Greater London in orange. (Note that this map predates the 2009 changes to Bedfordshire and Cheshire.)

The three types of administrative county are:

Type Created Number Units
Metropolitan county 1974 6 Greater Manchester · Merseyside · South Yorkshire · Tyne and Wear · West Midlands · West Yorkshire
Shire county 1974 28 Berkshire (no county council)  · Buckinghamshire · Cambridgeshire · Cumbria · Derbyshire · Devon · Dorset · East Sussex · Essex · Gloucestershire · Hampshire · Hertfordshire · Kent · Lancashire · Leicestershire · Lincolnshire · Norfolk · Northamptonshire · North Yorkshire · Nottinghamshire · Oxfordshire · Somerset · Staffordshire · Suffolk · Surrey · Warwickshire · West Sussex · Worcestershire
Administrative area 1965 1 Greater London

Note that whilst the metropolitan counties still legally exist, most of their administrative functions have been replaced by the metropolitan districts, which are effectively unitary authorities (see below). The administration of Berkshire has also been replaced by unitary authorities, although as it was never abolished, the county still legally exists.

The counties of Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire have been replaced by unitary authorities (see below) and so are no longer within the two-tier structure. They still exist as ceremonial counties.

District level

The lower level authorities in England's two-tier structure, below counties, are known as districts. Some districts are called boroughs, cities or royal boroughs.

Metropolitan boroughs, London boroughs and non-metropolitan unitary authorities are shown (the remaining areas are shire counties). (Note that this map predates the 2009 changes to Bedfordshire and Cheshire.)
Type Created Number Units
Metropolitan district 1974 36 Greater Manchester: Bolton · Bury · Manchester · Oldham · Rochdale · Salford · Stockport · Tameside · Trafford · Wigan
Merseyside: Knowsley · Liverpool · Sefton · St Helens · Wirral
South Yorkshire: Barnsley · Doncaster · Rotherham · Sheffield
Tyne and Wear: Gateshead · Newcastle upon Tyne · North Tyneside · South Tyneside · Sunderland
West Midlands: Birmingham · Coventry · Dudley · Sandwell · Solihull · Walsall · Wolverhampton
West Yorkshire: Bradford · Calderdale · Kirklees · Leeds · Wakefield
Non-metropolitan district (two-tier) 1974 201 See list of districts
Non-metropolitan district (unitary) 1995 55 See unitary authorities, below
London borough 1965 32 Barking and Dagenham · Barnet · Bexley · Brent · Bromley · Camden · Croydon · Ealing · Enfield · Greenwich · Hackney · Hammersmith and Fulham · Haringey · Harrow · Havering · Hillingdon · Hounslow · Islington · Kensington and Chelsea · Kingston upon Thames · Lambeth · Lewisham · Merton · Newham · Redbridge · Richmond upon Thames · Southwark · Sutton · Tower Hamlets · Waltham Forest · Wandsworth · Westminster
sui generis in antiquity 1 City of London (including the Inner and Middle Temples)
sui generis 1890 1 Isles of Scilly

Note that the metropolitan districts are effectively unitary authorities (see below), although the metropolitan counties still legally exist. The London boroughs and City of London are also effectively unitary authorities, although the Greater London Authority retains a limited level of administration.

Unitary authorities

Some, mostly urban, parts of England do not fall into the two-tier county/district administrative structure. Instead they are covered by a single council area, commonly, but not named in statute, as a unitary authority. Most unitary authorities were created in the 1990s; more were created in 2009. The majority of unitary authorities were formed from districts that were separated from their county. In some cases, borders were altered or districts were combined during this reorganisation. Some authorities were created from county councils whose districts were abolished. All of the districts within the county of Berkshire are unitary authorities, although Berkshire still legally exists as a county despite not having a county council. The metropolitan districts, London boroughs, and City of London are effectively also unitary authorities, although legally they are still within a two-tier structure.

Type Created Number Units
County gained district functions 2009 5 Cornwall · County Durham · Northumberland · Shropshire · Wiltshire
District gained county functions 2009 4 Bedford · Central Bedfordshire · Cheshire East · Cheshire West and Chester
District gained county functions 1998 15 Blackburn with Darwen · Blackpool · Halton · Herefordshire · Medway · Nottingham · Peterborough · Plymouth · Southend-on-Sea · Stoke-on-Trent · Swindon · Telford and Wrekin  · Thurrock · Torbay · Warrington
District gained Berkshire county functions 1998 6 Bracknell Forest · Reading · Slough · West Berkshire · Windsor and Maidenhead · Wokingham
District gained county functions 1997 11 Bournemouth · Brighton and Hove · Derby · Darlington · Leicester · Luton · Milton Keynes · Poole · Portsmouth · Rutland · Southampton
District gained county functions 1996 13 Bath and North East Somerset · Bristol · East Riding of Yorkshire · Hartlepool · Kingston upon Hull · Middlesbrough · North East Lincolnshire · North Lincolnshire · North Somerset · Redcar and Cleveland · South Gloucestershire · Stockton-on-Tees · York
County gained district functions 1995 1 Isle of Wight
Total 55

Unitary authorities in bold are also ceremonial counties and indicates that the county covers a larger area than the unitary authority. Unitary authorities can additionally have the status of borough or city, although this has no effect on their powers or functions.

Parish level

The civil parish is the most local unit of government in England. There are no civil parishes in Greater London. Not all of the rest of England is parished, though the number of parishes and total area parished is growing. A parish is governed by a parish council.

Changes proposed in 2004

Assuming Option 2 had been chosen in all three northern referenda: metropolitan boroughs, London boroughs and non-metropolitan unitary authorities (the remaining areas are shire counties)

A referendum was held in North East England on November 4, 2004 to see whether people there wished to have an elected regional assembly. As part of the referendum, voters were asked to choose which system of unitary authorities they would like to see in the existing county council areas if the regional assembly was approved. In the event, the vote in the North East was a decisive "no", making the proposed local government changes moot. Similar referendums in North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber were postponed indefinitely: on 8 November 2004 the Deputy Prime Minister announced "I will not therefore be bringing forward orders for referendums in either the North West, or Yorkshire and the Humber".[1]

Most of the proposed changes would have required no change in the county level entities, as they could have been implemented by merging districts and abolishing county councils. Where borders were crossed, however, changes would have been needed. This would have impacted Lancashire, where various parts were proposed for combination with Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen (both unitary authorities), Sefton (in Merseyside), Wigan (in Greater Manchester), and southern Cumbria; it also affected one proposal for North Yorkshire, which would have merged the district of Selby with the East Riding of Yorkshire. Few of the boundary changes would have involved creating new borders - only the proposals to combine Blackpool with parts of Wyre, and to split West Lancashire between Wigan and Sefton would have done this.

Notes and references



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