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This note contains basic details of the structure and functions of English local government. It outlines the system of counties, districts and unitary authorities), and other bodies such as fire and rescue authorities, combined authorities, and Police and Crime Commissioners.

Section 3 explains the system of local government elections, including the systems of electing by ‘halves’ and ‘thirds’ used in many local authorities. It also provides details of the local government franchise (those eligible to vote).

Section 4 provides details of the legal process for structural change in English local government. This includes the merger of district councils and the creation of ‘unitary authorities’ to replace ‘two-tier’ local government – i.e., county and district councils. Section 4 provides details of current restructuring plans and recent changes, and discusses Government guidance on proposals for unitary local government. The Appendix provides a breakdown of the division of responsibilities between county and district councils in two-tier areas.

Section 5 provides brief details of the financing of English local government, including an explanation of the annual Local Government Finance Settlement. Additional details can be found in the Library briefing Local government finances, and details of the 2020-21 settlement process can be found in the Library briefing on the Local Government Finance Settlement 2020-21.

Documents to download

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