Unitary Authority - United Kingdom

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, "unitary authorities" are English local authorities set up in accordance with the Local Government Changes for England Regulations 1994 made under powers conferred by the Local Government Act 1992 to form a single tier of local government in specified areas and which are responsible for almost all local government functions within such areas. While outwardly appearing to be similar, single-tier authorities formed using older legislation are not Unitary Authorities thus excluding e.g. the Isle of Wight Council or any other single-tier authority formed under the Local Government Act 1972 or older legislation.

This is distinct from the two-tier system of local government which still exists in most of England, where local government functions are divided between county councils (the upper tier) and district or borough councils. Until 1996 two-tier systems existed in Scotland and Wales, but these have now been replaced by systems based on a single-tier of local government with some functions shared between groups of adjacent authorities. A single-tier system has existed in Northern Ireland since 1973.

For many years the description of the number of tiers in UK local government arrangements has routinely ignored any current or previous bodies at the lowest level of authorities elected by the voters within their area such as parish (in England and Wales) or community councils; such bodies do not exist or have not existed in all areas.

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