LGIU and Vuelio 2022 Elections Bulletin – 14 April

3 weeks until polling day…

This week's highlights

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The 2022 local elections are underway, with major parties launching their campaigns. While national headlines focused on the cost of living and the news that the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have been fined for breaching lockdown rules, political parties have been laying out their plans should they win control of more local authorities this May.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are focused on helping households with the recent increases in cost of living, which is likely to dominate the elections in England, with Ed Davey and Keir Starmer accusing the Conservative Government of giving ‘pathetic’ responses to rising prices.

The Conservative Party has expressed concern over a row about the tax affairs of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s family and the issue with his possession of a US green card, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid also admitting he held non-dom status before entering politics. Many members of the party are worried about the impact of this on the May elections, alongside the cost of living crisis and the partygate scandal.

In Yorkshire there have been problems surrounding the lack of female candidates, with less than a third of prospective North Yorkshire County councillors being women, sparking a representation row.

Scottish politics has been busy this week with many major parties launching their local election manifestos. The Scottish National Party has pledged in Edinburgh that if they gain control of the council they will deliver two extra tram lines and a tourist tax for the city, while Scottish Labour have launched their manifesto with a pledge to cut Scottish bus and train fares. The Scottish Conservatives have pledged that every councillor elected on May 5 will not support the Scottish Government’s health and wellbeing survey and have said they want to see the Government fully fund free travel for under 22s and over 60s on the Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Tram. The Scottish Liberal Democrats meanwhile have pledged extra powers for Scottish councils and the Scottish Greens have said they will ‘fiercely defend’ local services.

As the nominations for candidates closed last week, 74 councillors have already been elected in Wales in wards where they were unopposed. Gwynedd has the highest number of uncontested seats at 28, while in Pembrokeshire 19 councillors will return to office unopposed and nine out of Wales’ 22 local authorities have councillors returning uncontested to their seats. Meanwhile at an event in Llandudno, Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies announced the party are fielding their highest number of candidates – 669, he also promised to tackle “bread and butter issues” as they launched their local election campaign on Thursday.

The latest polling in Northern Ireland shows that Sinn Féin is still substantially ahead of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), at 26% of the vote. If the party were to win, this would be the second time in the region’s history that a nationalist party has gained the most first-preference votes. Further, this would mean that both Scotland and Northern Ireland’s legislatures support an exit from the UK. Against this backdrop of division, the Alliance continues to make headway and is up two points at 16%, clearly establishing itself as Northern Ireland’s third party ahead of the Ulster Unionists. The UUP has dropped down one point to 13% — its lowest rating since Doug Beattie took over 10 months ago.

This is part of your one-stop-shop for local elections resources with the most pertinent local elections resources for you and your teams. 

State of the Locals panel event

This virtual panel hosted by the LGIU and Vuelio will bring together political and local government experts to share their predictions and ones to watch ahead of the 2022 local elections.

Speakers include: Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGIU; Keiran Pedley, Research Director in Public Affairs, Politics and Society, Ipsos UK; Peter Stanyon, Chief Executive, Association of Electoral Administrators; and Allan Faulds, Ballot Box Scotland.

Book your place here.
Thursday 21 April | 10:00am – 10:45am GMT
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In the news

A summary of this week’s elections news across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Subscribe to LGIU’s valuable daily news service here.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Conservatives fear local election impact of Chancellor row

Conservative MPs fear the furore over the Chancellor’s tax affairs will worsen their prospects at the local elections, with the public already angry at the cost of living crisis and Downing Street parties held during Covid-19 lockdowns. Meanwhile, senior Conservatives have called for ministers working in the Government’s economic and business departments to publish their tax returns to show they were paying their fair share. This comes as Boris Johnson gave the green light to an investigation into Rishi Sunak’s financial interests. Lord Geidt, the independent adviser, was set to look at whether Mr Sunak properly declared financial interests following a string of disclosures. However, it was reported last night that Lord Geidt has already cleared Mr Sunak of wrongdoing. Treasury sources insisted Mr Sunak had fully disclosed both his wife’s non-dom status and his green card when he was appointed, but that officials had decided that there was no need for this information to be made public. “We don’t write the rules. We just follow them”, they said.

Financial Times | The Daily Telegraph | The Times | The Times

Speculation of parties' 'informal non-aggression pact'

The Daily Mail reports on speculation about an “informal non-aggression pact” between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming local elections, with each party reportedly standing in a minority of seats in areas where the other represents the main challenger to the Conservatives. A senior Conservative source claims that “it is quite clear that Labour and the Lib Dems are trying to give each other a clear run in areas where they think one of them has the best chance”, in what they claim “looks like a trial run for the next election and them laying the groundwork for some sort of coalition”. Both parties have denied collusion, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reportedly having called for the party to “ruthlessly focus” on its top target seats.

Daily Mail

How important is the cost of living in the local elections?

The Independent looks at the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the upcoming local elections, weighed against other issues like the Ukraine war. A recent poll saw 45% of Britons say reducing living costs should be a priority for the Government, although pollster and Conservative peer Lord Hayward says that while there is “a perception that the Spring Statement was a disaster, but if you look at opinion polling in the last two weeks it doesn’t appear to have had an impact. The polls have been roughly static, with a narrow Labour lead.” For more on the impact of the Spring Statement and the rising cost of living, read LGIU’s briefing here.

The Independent

Peers reject photo ID plan for voters

Peers have defeated the Government over measures in the Elections Bill that would require voters to show photo ID. Peers voted by 199 to 170 to expand the range of documents people could present to get their ballot paper for parliamentary, local, and PCC elections in England and Wales. While the Government has said those without an approved form of ID will be able to get one from their local council, former Conservative minister Lord Willetts proposed an amendment that would make more forms of ID acceptable, such as library cards and student or workplace ID cards – saying the danger was that “hundreds of voters per constituency” could be turned away from polling stations. “Imagine if the outcome of the next election is a modest majority”, he said, “where throughout the day the media story has been voters being turned away from polling stations. That seems to me a very significant political and constitutional risk that does need to be taken into account if this measure is introduced.”

BBC News

Labour leader launches London campaign

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has launched the party’s London local election campaign in Barnet, with the Evening Standard noting that the party has set its sights on “totemic Tory boroughs like Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth – which have been Conservative for 44 years”. Sir Keir said: “Over the past 12 years the Tories have slashed funds for local government but the biggest cuts in the country are being forced on London. Londoners have a chance to send the Tories a message they cannot ignore – that the public deserves better than their pathetic response to a cost of living crisis.”

BBC News | Evening Standard

Campaigners want more female representation in North Yorkshire elections

Campaigners have raised the issue of representation after it emerged that less than a third of the candidates for North Yorkshire County Council in the local elections are women. A spokesperson for the Conservative Whitby and Scarborough group said its selection policy was “absolutely gender-neutral” and only one woman who stood was not selected. In Richmond, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said women face more practical and emotional barriers, with many already juggling family and work commitments. While a Labour spokesperson in the area said the gender imbalance is partly because established councillors, most of whom are male, are more likely to be selected due to their experience. “We have a policy of pushing women forward, but as a small party it’s more a matter of finding who is willing to stand,” a Green spokesperson added.

BBC News

Poll shows NI hike will affect local voting

A Savanta ComRes poll – commissioned by the Liberal Democrats – has indicated that one in four voters could be less likely to vote Conservative in local elections next month because of the hike in national insurance. And even one in five traditional Tory voters said the 1.25 percentage point rise could put them off supporting the party, according to the survey of 2,203 UK adults.

BBC News | Daily Mail

Could local government be more local?

Historian and author Jim Hunter writes in the Press and Journal ahead of the local elections notes that it was recently revealed that “several parts of the north will have no elections – candidates having already been returned unopposed” – and argues that a “lack of folk prepared to stand for office is a pointer to local government in Scotland being in a far from healthy state”. One contributing factor, he says, is that Scotland’s local authorities “aren’t very local”, using the example of Highland Council, whose Inverness HQ “is over 100 miles by (often not very good) road from many of the communities the council is meant to serve”. “Might it be time for some updated version of the older set-up to be restored”, he asks, “one that would bring power closer to people while giving focus and identity to communities where these things are all too often missing?”

The Press and Journal

Consultation on lowering age of election candidacy

The Scottish Government is to launch a consultation on plans to lower the minimum age of election candidacy. It could see youngsters aged 16 and 17 able to stand as candidates in local and national elections. The plans are part of a wider Programme for Government, which will seek consultation on a number of electoral reforms. Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick, the youngest member of the Scottish Parliament at the age of 24, welcomed the move. She said: “Having spent time in both the Highland Council chamber and Holyrood, I know first-hand what a difference it makes when you have a diverse group of voices. Between technological advances, societal change, and impactful events like Covid, people under 30 now have had a very different experience growing up, finding housing and employment, and becoming adults than those from previous generations.”

STV

Council candidates urged to back environmental policies

Environmental group Friends of the Earth Scotland has urged local election candidates across Scotland to back a number of environmental policies in their campaigns. Head of campaigns Mary Church says many powers “to drive action on the climate crisis sit with local councils, which is why this vote matters so much”. “Councillors must put people and the planet at the head of all the decisions they make”, she said, “This means making it easier and more affordable to take public transport by running services in the interest of passengers rather than shareholders, helping people to reduce and recycle their waste, and planning for the vital phase-out of incineration.”

The Press and Journal 

Low pay and social media abuse discourage councillors

The Herald looks at the challenges facing Scotland’s councillors – and the factors that are seeing dozens of elected members, many elected for the first time in 2017, stand down at this year’s local elections. A COSLA survey earlier this year found that councillors work an average of 38.6 hours per week at an hourly rate lower than the living wage. Glasgow City Council member Cllr Maggie McTernan, one of those who is standing down this year, says it is “not an amount you can live on”. “Either you need support from someone else in your household who is bringing in an income or you need to have another job”, which can be a challenge with the irregular hours demanded of councillors. Councillors have also raised concerns over abuse on social media, and over a partisan and sometimes antagonistic political culture. City of Edinburgh Council member Cllr Nick Cook, who is also standing down, says low pay leads to “candidates that are less able and possibly wouldn’t be employable elsewhere or are retired and wealthy so the money doesn’t matter. Neither of these things make for representative or effective local government.” Read LGIU’s personal safety guidance for councillors here.

Herald Scotland

Cost of living crisis at heart of SNP campaign

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made a campaign visit to Govanhill ahead of the local elections, saying the UK Government’s response to a cost of living crisis that has left people “terrified to open their bills” highlights the need for Scotland to achieve independence. The Scottish Government, she said, “is already doing what we can to ease the burden on hard-pressed families and, if elected, SNP councillors will prioritise the cost of living crisis in Scotland’s council chambers – but we cannot let the Tories away with disgraceful inaction while households are forced into poverty.” Facing criticism from opposition parties over the exclusion of print media from the event, Ms Sturgeon said the party’s formal manifesto launch will be held next week, adding that in recent years she had “probably answered more questions – rightly, it’s my job – from journalists than any other politician in the entirety of the UK”.

The Courier | Dunfermline Press | Forres Gazette | Herald Scotland | The Daily Record | The Press and Journal | The Scotsman

Starmer rules out Labour coalition with SNP

Joining the campaign trail ahead of the local elections in Scotland, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has insisted there will never be a coalition between his party and the SNP. Speaking in Glasgow, he said there would be “no deal” between the two parties either for next month’s council election or for a future general election. Sir Keir was backing Scottish Labour leader Ana Sarwar’s decision to rule out a coalition with the SNP on Glasgow City Council. Meanwhile, Fife Council’s Labour co-leader David Ross, who leads the authority alongside the SNP’s David Alexander, said his party will unlikely be able to win a majority in Fife but hinted his group could look to establish an informal “working arrangement.”

The Courier | Herald Scotland | The Scotsman

Scottish Labour 'back on the pitch'

The Observer looks at Scottish Labour’s prospects in the local elections under leader Anas Sarwar, with recent polls having “consistently shown Labour coming second in Scotland” behind the SNP, overtaking the Scottish Conservatives. Mr Sarwar tells the paper that he is confident that Scottish Labour “is back on the pitch”, and is “starting to resonate with people again”. However, he said, there is “still a very long way to travel”, and that while the “latest trends are positive … I’m not in this to come second.” You can read LGIU’s guide to the local elections here.

The Observer

Scottish Labour launch local election manifesto

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has launched the party’s local election manifesto – saying the focus of the campaign must not be on the “bitter division of the past”, but on helping people through the cost of living crisis. The “difficult choice between heating and eating is not about political debate”, he said, “it’s a real lived experience for thousands of our fellow citizens every single day”. The party has pledged to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas giants to fund cuts to household bills of up to £600, along with cuts to rail and bus fares that could save someone commuting from Glasgow to Edinburgh £400 a month. Questioned on whether the party could regain control of Glasgow City Council, he said: “I want us to win Labour councils, I want us to make Labour gains in terms of both councillors and councils, and I think if you look at the last five years, what’s happened in Glasgow City Council, you can see the difference a Labour council makes.”

STV | BBC News | BBC News | Glasgow Evening Times | Herald Scotland | The Daily Record | The Press and Journal

Greens launch manifesto

The Scottish Greens have launched their manifesto for the local elections. Party co-leader Lorna Slater said there is a need for councils to focus on traffic reduction and public transport plans. The manifesto includes Green councillors supporting improved bus services and re-opening railways, ensuring all authorities have a zero-waste plan by 2025 and make free childcare hours more flexible. The blueprint also commits Green councillors to support immediately cancelling all outstanding debt owed by families for school meals and support introducing a workplace parking levy “in areas where this would be appropriate and beneficial.”

BBC News | The Courier | Herald Scotland

Alba Party launches Aberdeenshire campaign

The Alba Party has launched its local election campaign in Aberdeenshire, with seven council candidates joined by party leader Alex Salmond at St Fergus Gas Terminal. Mr Salmond said that a third of Aberdeenshire households “are right now being plunged into fuel poverty in the all-energy capital of Europe” is a “national scandal which cannot be allowed to stand”. “The reality”, he said, “is that our resources are controlled by international capital, the revenues are appropriated by Westminster and Scots are left to pick up the tab. As Aberdeenshire families shiver this April, Alba’s council candidates vow to campaign for change.”

The Press and Journal

Local Elections in England

Of the English councils holding elections, most are electing a third or half of their councillors. These seats were last up for election in 2018. The remainder are electing all their councillors.

There are four newly created councils in England holding elections this year. In Cumbria, the county and districts are being replaced by two new unitary councils, Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness.The newly elected councils will act as shadow councillors for 12 months before beginning a four-year term when the new councils formally begin in 2023. In North Yorkshire, the districts and county are being replaced by a single unitary authority. Councillors elected in the county elections in 2022 will become councillors for the unitary authority in 2023. Finally, in Somerset, the county and districts are being replaced by a single unitary Somerset Council. These councillors will take on county council responsibilities for a year, before taking over for district councillors in 2023.

Mayors up for election include Watford as well as 5 London boroughs. All are currently held by Labour except for Watford, which has a Liberal Democrat mayor. South Yorkshire is also electing a combined authority mayor.

Image: Shutterstock
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East Midlands

This point in the election cycle is a quiet one in the East Midlands, where just 3 councils are holding elections. Although councils which elect by thirds can be tricky to read, keep an eye on Amber Valley. Since 1973 the council has changed political control ten times. The most recent flip was in 2021 when the Conservatives gained 9 seats, seizing control from the Labour administration – which had only been in place since 2019.

Reform UK won their first council seats in Derby in 2021 (their existing councillors elsewhere having defected from other parties). Both councillors – Alan Graves and Alan Graves Jr – now represent local party Reform Derby. The Conservatives will be looking to continue making gains here – after the 2021 election the leader claimed they would be in control had all seats been up for election.

And finally… A new prison in Leicestershire has been named by public suggestion: HMP Fosse Way, after the Roman Road, was selected by a panel of local representatives, including council leaders.

East of England

St Albans is a two way battle between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, changing hands frequently over the years. New boundaries mean every seat is up for election this year – the Conservatives are still smarting from losing control of this council last year, so expect a fight.

Watch out for Southend’s first election as a City, a status granted in tribute to Sir David Amess MP. The council is currently led by a partnership agreement between Labour, the Independent Group and Lib Dems.

South Cambridgeshire has all its seats up for election for only the second time – prior to the last elections in 2018 it elected by thirds. That 2018 election saw a stunning victory for the Lib Dems, who gained 19 seats and seized control of the council.

Last year’s elections in Harlow saw an end to nearly 10 years of Labour control as the Conservatives unseated the leader and took nearly every seat up for election.

The Lib Dems will be hoping to win their sixth successive mayoral election in Watford – although Labour’s vote share improved significantly last time around.

And finally…Warner Bros has paid St Albans City and District Council £25,000 for the use of Verulamium Park as a filming location for a new Willy Wonka film.

For further analysis check out LGIU’s One to Watch guide to the 2022 local elections.

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Local Elections in Scotland

All 32 local authorities in Scotland are holding elections. Scottish local elections use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system to elect multi-member wards. Elections were last held in 2017.

The three island authorities – and three authorities which include large islands – have had their boundaries reviewed as a result of the 2018 Islands Act, resulting in new boundaries for Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar and North Ayrshire.

Image: istock
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Watch out for Aberdeen, where SNP became the largest party in 2017 but were kept out of power by a Labour-Conservative coalition. Suspended by then leader Kezia Dugdale, those 9 Labour councillors spent the next 4 years as ‘Aberdeen Labour’. They were recently told they could contest the 2022 elections as Labour candidates.

In Aberdeenshire, Alison Evison, incumbent President of COSLA and a Labour councillor since 2012, has announced she will be contesting the upcoming elections as an independent.

Many in Scottish Labour will have their sights set on Glasgow City, which they lost control of in 2017 for the first time since the council was created. Since then SNP administration has not had the easiest run, with defections, union action and local battles over libraries and bins however Glasgow hosted COP26 on a world stage.

South Ayrshire has been run by a power sharing agreement between SNP, Labour and Independent councillors since 2017 despite the Conservatives being the largest party. Between 2012 and 2017, the council was run by a Labour-Conservative coalition. The leader and depute leader have shared their hopes that whatever the next administration looks like, projects like the regeneration of Ayr town centre are not disrupted by party politics.

It’s all change at Shetland as four of the most senior councillors are not seeking reelection (former council leader Gary Robinson is standing again, having lost his seat in 2017).

And finally… Na h-Eileanan Siar is currently an all-male council. The authority has appealed for women to stand and organised a workshop for prospective female candidates ahead of the 2022 local elections

For further analysis check out LGIU’s One to Watch guide to the 2022 local elections.

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Local Elections in Wales

All 22 Welsh local authorities are holding elections under new boundaries. For the first time, all legal residents of Wales over the age of 16 will be able to vote. All councils will be using First Past the Post to elect councillors, although councils now have the right to switch to Single Transferable Vote for future elections.

Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly and Torfaen will be offering ‘flexible voting’, with many voters able to cast their vote at a central polling station ahead of election day.

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Plaid Cymru will be fighting to keep the four councils where it currently governs in coalition. A bad night for Plaid Cymru could see a political shake-up at Carmarthenshire, which has a significant Labour group as well as many independent councillors. It’s likely that they will keep majority control of Gwynedd, although they face opposition from local party Llais Gwynedd.

The Liberal Democrat vote has still not recovered in Cardiff, where the party ran the council for many years until losing 19 councillors at the 2012 local elections. Labour are well placed to keep control of the city.

Watch for results from Conwy, where the Conservatives are in coalition with independent councillors. Plaid Cymru have 10 seats and Labour are not far behind on eight. With boundary changes reducing the number of council seats by four, things could be interesting in Conwy.

Monmouthshire is the only Welsh council run by a Conservative majority administration. Although their majority isn’t tiny, it’s feasible that this council could return to no overall control.

And finally… the first openly non-binary mayor in Wales, Owen J Hurcum, is not seeking re-election this year as they have been offered a chance to renovate and live on a boat in Norfolk.

For further analysis check out LGIU’s One to Watch guide to the 2022 local elections.

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Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

A total of 239 candidates will contest this election, of which 87 are women, up 17 more than in 2017.

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Sinn Féin is fielding the most candidates with 34, followed by the DUP who are standing at 30. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has 27, while Alliance has 24 and the SDLP has 22. The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) is fielding 19 candidates, the Green Party has 18 and People Before Profit has 12. Aontú is also fielding 12 candidates, the Workers Party has 6 candidates in the race and the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) has 3. The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Socialist Party have 2 candidates each, while the Northern Ireland Conservatives, Cross Community Labour Alternative (CCLA), Resume NI and Heritage Party are all fielding one candidate each. There are 24 independent candidates in the field.

South Belfast will be one of the most tightly contested seats as five parties hold one seat each. Both Alliance and the SDLP are each fielding two candidates in the outside hope of picking up an extra seat. MLAs confirmed to be standing down this year will be Chris Lyttle, Paula Bradley, William Humphrey, George Robinson, Robin Newton, Paul Rankin, Jim Wells, Alex Maskey, Emma Rogan, Sinéad Bradley and Trevor Lunn.

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Everything you need to know about how local government is structured

The structure of local government varies from area to area, and region to region.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

…In Scotland

In Scotland, local government is organised in to unitary authorities. Each local authority is governed by a council, which is made up of councillors directly elected by the residents of the area they represent.

Sitting below these principal councils are community councils, which bridge the gap between the local authority and the community and are composed of elected volunteers from the community.

There are 32 unitary authorities in Scotland, and around 1200 community councils.

How many people work for local government in Scotland?

In Q1 of 2016, total employment in Scottish local government was 244,300.

In April 2013, approximately 29,000 staff were reclassified as central government employees as a result of the introduction of the single police and fire services.

How did local government evolve in Scotland?

Over the last millennium, Scottish society evolved from small, self-sufficient communities into our present democratic structures.

Feudalism was introduced by David I in the 12th century, who also founded burghs such as Stirling, Dunfermline, Perth and Edinburgh. The new royal burghs enjoyed trading privileges in return for providing the crown with tolls and duties. Gradually, they became more independent and formed early town councils. The first Royal Burghs were Berwick and Roxburgh, quickly followed by Edinburgh, Perth, Stirling, Dunfermline and Scone. By 1326, burghs were sending representatives to sit alongside the nobility and the senior clergy in the Scottish Parliament. By 1707 there were around 70 of these burghs. Nobles were also able to establish and own burghs from the early 13th century. Over 300 of these ‘burghs of barony’ were created between 1450 and 1846. In 1833, three acts of parliament (‘the Burgh Reform Acts’) were passed in order to enable the burghs to adapt to the changing needs of communities. These reforms included the established of Police Burghs and a duty to hold elections.

David I also expanded the system of ‘shires’, or sheriffdoms. The word ‘shire’ remained in usage until 1889, when control of the shires was taken over by county councils. Meanwhile, parish councils were abolished in 1930 and their powers transferred to the county councils. Also in 1930, three classes of burgh were established with different powers.

During the 1960s, a Royal Commission reported that there were too many local authorities, with low public standing and with unequal resources. Following this, Scotland was divided into 9 regions and 53 districts, plus 3 unitary island authorities. Community councils were also introduced. Burgh councils were abolished.

Regional councils were accused of being too remote from the people and too expensive. In 1996, they were abolished and the district councils were aggregated into unitary councils – 32 including the island authorities.

…In England

In most of England, there are two tiers – county and district – with responsibility for services split between the two tiers. County councils cover the entire county area and provide around 80% of the services. Within the county, there are several district councils which cover a smaller area and provide more local services.

However London, other metropolitan areas and some parts of shire England operate under a single-tier council structure.

In total there are five possible types of local authority in England. These are:

  1. County councils – cover the whole county and provide 80% of services in these areas, including children’s services and adult social care.
  2. District councils – cover a smaller area within a county, providing more local services (such as housing, local planning, waste and leisure but not children’s services or adult social care); can be called district, borough or city council.
  3. Unitary authorities – just one level of local government responsible for all local services, can be called a council (e.g. Medway Council), a city council (e.g. Nottingham City Council) or borough council (e.g. Reading Borough Council).
  4. London boroughs – each of the 32 boroughs is a unitary authority.
  5. Metropolitan districts – effectively unitary authorities, the name being a relic from past organisational arrangements. They can be called metropolitan boroughs or city councils.

Combined authorities

Since the establishment of Greater Manchester in 2011, groups of councils have formed combined authorities in some areas of England. These combined authorities receive additional powers and funding from central government. They are particularly important for transport and economic policy across the regions in which they are based. There are currently 9 combined authorities in England;

  1. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough–  Mayor Dr Nik Johnson
  2. Greater Manchester Combined Authority– Mayor Andy Burnham 
  3. Liverpool City Region– Mayor Steve Rotherham 
  4. North of Tyne Combined Authority – Mayor Jamie Driscoll
  5. Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis
  6. Tees Valley Combined Authority– Mayor Ben Houchen 
  7. West Midlands Combined Authority– Mayor Andy Street 
  8. West of England Combined Authority – Mayor Dan Norris
  9. North East Combined Authority– No directly elected mayor 
  10. West Yorkshire Combined Authority– Mayor Tracy Brabin

Town, parish and community councils

In some parts of England, Wales and Scotland there is another layer of local government below these councils called parish (England), town (England) or community (Wales and Scotland) councils. These are responsible for services such as management of town and village centres, litter, verges, cemeteries, parks, ponds, allotments, war memorials and community halls. Scotland’s community councils have fewer powers than their counterparts in England and Wales.

There are around 10,000 such councils in England, 730 in Wales and 1200 in Scotland. There are none in Northern Ireland.

Source: House of Commons Library

What is local government responsible for?

 UnitariesCounty CouncilsDistrict Councils Metropolitan DistrictsLondon BoroughsGLA
Education✔️✔️✔️✔️
Highways✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Transport Planning✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Passenger Transport✔️✔️✔️
Social Care✔️✔️✔️✔️
Housing✔️✔️✔️✔️
Libraries✔️✔️✔️✔️
Leisure and Recreation ✔️✔️✔️✔️
Environmental Health✔️✔️✔️✔️
Waste Collection✔️✔️✔️✔️
Waste disposal✔️✔️✔️✔️
Planning applications ✔️✔️✔️✔️
Strategic Planning✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Local tax collection✔️✔️✔️✔️

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Our safety and communication guides

This short safety guide will help you assess risk and adopt strategies and behaviours that will minimise any potential hazards that might be identified as part of a councillor’s role. It has been updated to include information on canvassing and Covid-19. Read our safety guide here.

Local elections matter and how we talk about them matters. Our communications guide focuses on some easy steps that councils can take during the election period. Read the full communication guide here.

Our full post-election training programme

We are running a number of dedicated online training sessions to support newly or recently elected councillors after the local elections. Both our pre and post-training is delivered online and range in length from a couple of hours to a full day. We can also develop a catered in-house training programme for your council, please just get in touch. Check out our full post-election training programme here.

Are you an LGIU member?

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LGIU was founded in the UK in 1983. Now as LGIU England & Wales, LGIU Scotland, LGIU Ireland and LGIU Australia, we work for and with local authorities around the world, helping them to serve their local communities more effectively. We provide our members with the mix of insight, ideas and innovation that they need to get the job done and plan for the future. Put simply, we are here supporting local government every day. Find out more about LGIU membership or register for free on our website.

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