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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. The Library publishes a research briefing alongside the annual finance settlement: the most recent at the time of writing was published alongside the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2024/25.

Section 6 provides some historical information about the development of local government in England.

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