|Created by||Local Government Act 1972|
|Number||83 (as of 1 April 2009)|
|Possible types||multiple district (34)|
|single district (49)|
|Possible status||non-metropolitan (77)|
|Additional status||with county council (27)|
|with no council (7)|
|with district council (49)|
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and were also the counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies. Later changes in legislation during the 1980s and 1990s have allowed counties without county councils and 'unitary authority' counties of a single district. Counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies are now defined separately, based on the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. In 2009 there were further structural changes in some areas.
|Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England|
This article is part of the series:
The county councils of these were abolished in 1986 by the Thatcher government for largely political rather than practical reasons,[according to whom?] but the counties themselves still exist legally. They are used for some administrative and geographic purposes, and are still ceremonial counties. Most of the powers that the former county councils had were devolved to their metropolitan boroughs, which are now in effect unitary authorities; however, some functions (such as emergency services, civil defence and public transport) are still run jointly on a metropolitan-county-wide basis.
The Greater London administrative area and the Greater London Council were created in 1965 by the London Government Act 1963. The Greater London Council was abolished in 1986 at the same time as the metropolitan county councils. Since 2000 Greater London has had an elected Assembly and Mayor, and forms the London region of England.
There are 28 such counties:
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Warwickshire, West Sussex, Worcestershire.
All, apart from Berkshire, have county councils. Sometimes 'shire county' is used to exclude Berkshire, because it has no county council. The counties have populations of 109,000 to 1.4 million. Under local government reforms coming into effect in 2009, the number of such counties was reduced. The non-metropolitan counties of Bedfordshire and Cheshire were split into two separate non-metropolitan counties respectively, while Cornwall, County Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire became unitary authorities each of a single district.
Unitary authorities are areas with only one council. 49 of these are coterminous with a non-metropolitan county:
Bath and North East Somerset, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Central Bedfordshire, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Cornwall, Darlington, Derby, Durham, East Riding of Yorkshire, Halton, Hartlepool, Herefordshire, Isle of Wight, Kingston upon Hull, Leicester, Luton, Medway, Middlesbrough, Borough of Milton Keynes, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, North Somerset, Northumberland, Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth, Redcar and Cleveland, Rutland, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Torbay, Warrington, Wiltshire, York.
Forty-three of these are defined as counties with a single district council, and no county council. The Isle of Wight, Cornwall, Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire are technically counties with a county council and no district councils, but the effect is the same.
The districts of Berkshire are unitary authorities, but are not granted county status.
The Isles of Scilly are not part of Cornwall for administrative purposes, but neither do they constitute a county.
The current system of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties came into effect on 1 April 1974 and replaced the administrative counties and county boroughs, which were abolished at that time. Greater London was created in 1965 under separate legislation.
In the 1990s a new type of non-metropolitan county was created: the unitary authority, which combines the functions and powers of county and district. The existing non-metropolitan counties became known as shire counties to distinguish them from the unitary authorities.
By the late 1960s, it had become obvious that the structure of local government in England and Wales needed reforming. Harold Wilson's Labour government set up the Redcliffe-Maud Commission to produce proposals for wholesale reform.
The report proposed that for most of England the two-tier structure be abolished, and replaced with a system of 58 unitary authorities, which would generally ignore the previous administrative boundaries in favour of changes that made geographic sense - a total redrawing of the map. In the metropolitan areas of Merseyside, South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire, and the Birmingham area, there would be 3 metropolitan areas, with 20 district authorities.
These proposals were opposed by the Conservative Party opposition led by Edward Heath. They won the 1970 general election, and set to work defining their own scheme. This scrapped the concept of unitary authorities (even for existing county boroughs) – the entire area of England and Wales was to be divided into uniform counties and districts. In England the new divisions were to be largely modelled on the existing counties with quite radical reforms put forward, even in some non-metropolitan areas.
Despite reassurances from the government that nobody's loyalties were expected to change as a result of the local government reform, many changes did incur significant local opposition. Most of the radical changes were withdrawn. One aspect the government stood firm on was the mergers of small counties. Campaigns for the continuation of Rutland and Herefordshire were unsuccessful, although due to its special geographic circumstances, the Isle of Wight was permitted to retain a separate county council, as opposed to being reunified with its historic county of Hampshire.
The Local Government Act was passed in 1972, and defined the English counties and metropolitan districts, but not the non-metropolitan districts. These were set by a Boundary Commission that had already begun work.
The metropolitan counties were composed as follows:
Other significant changes were:
The changes were adopted by the Royal Mail for the purposes of postal addresses wherever they were able, with the notable exceptions of Hereford and Worcester and Greater Manchester. Humberside was divided for this purpose into North Humberside and South Humberside.
|Counties of England from 1974 to 1996|
In 1986 the county councils of the metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council were abolished by Margaret Thatcher's government following disputes with central government, but the counties themselves remained legally in existence.
On 1 April 1995, the Isle of Wight became a single unitary authority. It had previously had a two-tier structure with an Isle of Wight County Council, Medina Borough Council and South Wight Borough Council. Also on this day, two small areas were ceded from Surrey and Buckinghamshire to Berkshire, giving it a border with Greater London.
On 1 April 1996, the unpopular counties of Avon, Humberside and Cleveland were abolished and their former area divided into unitary districts. Also at this time, the city of York was expanded and separated from North Yorkshire.
On 1 April 1997, the districts of Bournemouth, Darlington, Derby, Leicester, Luton, Milton Keynes, Poole, Portsmouth, Rutland, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Swindon (based on the former Thamesdown district) became unitary authorities. Also, the districts of Brighton and Hove were merged to form the new unitary authority of Brighton and Hove.
On 1 April 1998, Blackburn with Darwen (based on the former Blackburn district), Blackpool, Halton, Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Southend-on-Sea, Telford and Wrekin (based on the former Wrekin district), Torbay, Thurrock and Warrington became unitary authorities. Also, the districts of Rochester-upon-Medway and Gillingham were merged to form the new unitary authority of Medway, and the county of Hereford and Worcester was abolished and replaced by the unitary authority of Herefordshire and the shire county of Worcestershire. Berkshire was split into six unitary authorities, but not formally abolished.
In April 2009 the following changes were made to the non-metropolitan counties:
|Bedford (borough)||Also became a non-metropolitan county|
|Central Bedfordshire||New non-metropolitan county|
|Cheshire East||New non-metropolitan county|
|Cheshire West and Chester||New non-metropolitan county|
The effect was that Bedfordshire and Cheshire became ceremonial counties that do not correspond to a non-metropolitan county of the same name.
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