Unitary Authority

  • In the news

    Hexham Courant, United Kingdom -
    ... too well, research by consultants KPMG shows that running costs and delivery of services in the proposed South East Northumberland unitary authority will be ...
  • Council Staff Become 'Eyes and Ears' for Safety
    The Scotsman, UK -
    Employees of the unitary authority who work in services including refuse collection, street cleaning, car parks and security will take part in the scheme. ...
  • Statement by the President
    Whitehouse.gov (press release) -
    ... President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch ...
  • Freedom honour for two stalwarts
    ic CheshireOnline, UK -
    ... Halton becoming a Unitary Authority in 1998 was a major highlight for Mike, along with the drive for regeneration in Halton. Mike ...
  • Kosovo and Macedonia
    Economist (subscription), UK -
    ... Albanian nationalists loathe this idea; they want Kosovo to be as unitary as possible ... Indeed, a big increase in municipal authority was the price that Albanian ...
A unitary authority is a term used in a two-tier local government system to describe a unit of local government that operates as a single tier.

1 New Zealand

2 United Kingdom

Table of contents

New Zealand

In New Zealand a unitary authority is a territorial authority (district or city) which also performs the functions of a regional council. New Zealand has three unitary authorities: Gisborne District, Nelson City and Tasman District.

United Kingdom

The term 'unitary authority' itself first surfaced in the Redcliffe-Maud Report, to describe the sort of authority the report recommended cover most of England. These sorts of authorities already existed and were called county boroughs; but the term was urban in character. The Report was rejected by the incoming government after the 1970 general election, and county boroughs were abolished in 1974. It was not until the 1990s that unitary authorities would be created in the UK.

Creation of unitary authorities

Unitary authorities can be created by statutory instruments, so do not require separate legislation, under the terms of the Local Government Act 1992. Typically a district of an administrative county is designated as a new administrative county, but without a county council. The borders of the original administrative county are adjusted to exclude the unitary authority area. In common usage unitary authority areas are not usually referred to as counties, although there are exceptions such as the unitary authority of county of Herefordshire, which along with Rutland was a reinstatement of an administrative county lost in the 1974 reorganisation, and the road signs of Herefordshire now refer to it as a county.

In some cases, such as the boroughs of the metropolitan counties and Berkshire the unitary authorities are not legally counties in their own right, but have instead had all functions transferred to them and the county council has been abolished. This is in practical terms the same thing.

Scotland and Wales consistently use unitary authorities. They have been becoming common in England since the 1990s. However the two-tier arrangement (increasing to three-tiers, for the remaining county administrations) has remained in a different form due to the introduction of a regional level of administration.

London boroughs (including the City of London), the Isles of Scilly, are also counted as unitary authorities.

Listings of unitary authorities in England can be found by region, or in Subdivisions of England.