Unitary Authority

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In the United Kingdom and New Zealand, a unitary authority is a form of administrative structure in which two administrative levels are merged and are thus administered by only one authority; in Scotland the official name for this is Council Area . Some unitary authorities can be compared with independent cities in Germany and with statutory cities in Austria.

United Kingdom

Unitary Authorities were introduced in England , Wales and Scotland in 1996. These are areas in which the tasks of a county ( non-metropolitan county ) and a district ( non-metropolitan district ) are combined in one local authority. As part of a single-stage administration, all tasks of a local or communal administration are carried out. A single-tier administration was established in Northern Ireland as early as 1973.

Some of the larger Unitary Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have divided their area into regional units, in which so-called Area Committees are responsible for the organization of certain tasks in their area.


Unitary Authorities in England (red)

The Unitary Authorities in England can consist of only one city, e.g. B. Southampton , Plymouth or Nottingham , as well as cover entire counties and be largely rural, z. B. Northumberland . While the unitary authorities consisting of a single city have no subordinate administrative units, the large-scale unitary authorities are still partly divided into so-called civil parishes as the lowest administrative unit. Differences in the designation of these parishes (such as towns and villages ) have no administrative relevance. Unitary Authorities in England can also have the status of Borough , Royal Borough or City , but this has no significant influence on their competencies.

Since 2020 there have been a total of 57 Unitary Authorities in England , among which the Isles of Scilly have a special status. Five ceremonial counties ( Bristol , Herefordshire , Isle of Wight , Northumberland and Rutland ) each form a single unitary authority and ten ceremonial counties ( Bedfordshire , Berkshire , Buckinghamshire , Cheshire , Cornwall , Dorset , Durham , East Riding of Yorkshire , Shropshire and Wiltshire ) are subdivided into unitary authorities across the board.

Similar administrative units existed with the county boroughs in England between 1889 and 1974.

List of Unitary Authorities in England

Surname Population
(in km²)
status Ceremonial county
Bath and North East Somerset 177,643 0351.12 Borough Somerset
Bedford 159.207 0476.41 Borough Bedfordshire
Blackburn with Darwen 147.713 0137.01 Borough Lancashire
Blackpool 141,976 0034.92 Borough Lancashire
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole 386.110 0161.44 Dorset
Bracknell Forest * 115.058 0109.38 Borough Berkshire
Brighton and Hove 275,762 0087.54 City East Sussex
Bristol 432.451 0110.00 City Bristol
Buckinghamshire 511,488 1564.95 Buckinghamshire
Central Bedfordshire 259,969 0715.67 Bedfordshire
Cheshire East 372.146 1166.37 Borough Cheshire
Cheshire West and Chester 330,200 0916.64 Borough Cheshire
Cornwall 537.914 3549.47 Cornwall
County Durham 514,348 2231.59 Durham
Darlington 105,248 0197.47 Borough Durham
Derby 250,568 0078.03 City Derbyshire
Dorset 368.353 2491.22 Dorset
East Riding of Yorkshire 335,887 2409.00 East Riding of Yorkshire
Halton 125,692 0079.09 Borough Cheshire
Hartlepool 092,238 0093.86 Borough Durham
Herefordshire 184,932 2180.00 Herefordshire
Isle of Wight 138,748 0380.00 Isle of Wight
Isles of Scilly * 002,264 0016.33 sui generis Cornwall
Kingston upon Hull 257.204 0071.45 City East Riding of Yorkshire
Leicester 331,606 0073.32 City Leicestershire
Luton 205.843 0043.35 Borough Bedfordshire
Medway 268.218 0192.03 Borough Kent
Middlesbrough 138,744 0053.87 Borough North Yorkshire
Milton Keynes 252.358 0308.63 Borough Buckinghamshire
North East Lincolnshire 159,727 0191.85 Borough Lincolnshire
North Lincolnshire 168,372 0846.31 Borough Lincolnshire
North Somerset 204,385 0374.68 Somerset
Northumberland 316.116 5026.09 Northumberland
Nottingham 308.735 0074.61 City Nottinghamshire
Peterborough 186.372 0343.38 City Cambridgeshire
Plymouth 258.026 0079.78 City Devon
Portsmouth 206,836 0040.25 City Hampshire
Reading * 157.112 0040.40 Borough Berkshire
Redcar and Cleveland 134.998 0244.88 Borough North Yorkshire
Rutland 037.015 0382.00 Rutland
Shropshire 308.207 3197.31 Shropshire
Slough * 141,838 0032.54 Borough Berkshire
South Gloucestershire 266.147 0496.94 Gloucestershire
Southampton 239,428 0051.47 City Hampshire
Southend-on-Sea 174,838 0041.76 Borough Essex
Stockton-on-teas 192.406 0203.89 Borough Durham and North Yorkshire
Stoke-on-Trent 249.903 0093.45 City Staffordshire
Swindon 211,934 0230.10 Borough Wiltshire
Telford and Wrekin 167,682 0290.31 Borough Shropshire
Thurrock 159,533 0163.38 Borough Essex
Torbay 131,492 0062.88 Borough Devon
Warrington 203,652 0180.64 Borough Cheshire
West Berkshire * 154,486 0704.17 Berkshire
Wiltshire 476.816 3255.35 Wiltshire
Windsor and Maidenhead * 145.822 0198.43 Royal Borough Berkshire
Wokingham * 156,663 0178.98 Borough Berkshire
York 200.018 0271.94 City North Yorkshire
* Unitary Authority with no county status


In Wales, administration has been a single tier nationwide since 1996. There are 22 principal areas , which are comparable to the unitary authorities in England and of which Cardiff , Swansea and Newport have the status of a city and ten others have the status of a county borough .


Since 1996, Scotland has had a single-tier administration nationwide. There are 32 Unitary Authorities , whose official name is Council Area and of which Aberdeen , Dundee , Edinburgh and Glasgow have city status.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the administration has been divided into one level nationwide since 1973. There have been eleven districts there since April 1, 2015 , of which Belfast has the status of a city . The Northern Irish districts have much less autonomy than the local levels of the other three parts of the country, in particular no responsibility for planning questions of any kind.

New Zealand

In New Zealand there are six Unitary Authorities that simultaneously perform regional and local administrative tasks. These were established around 1990 when New Zealand's administrative structure was reorganized from the ground up (around 700 administrative units became around 80). Four of New Zealand's Unitary Authorities are on the South Island and two on the North Island .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The lowdown on local government law . Law on the Web , 2013, archived from the original on February 16, 2013 ; accessed on May 20, 2019 (English, original website no longer available).
  2. ^ Office for National Statistics: Counties, Non-metropolitan Districts and Unitary Authorities
  3. Population of England and Wales in mid-2012 ( ZIP ; 832 kB)