Local government in the United Kingdom

ManctownhallManchester Town Hall (Credit: mattw1ls0n, CC by 2.0)

There are a number of resources which are useful in helping to understand the role of local government in the United Kingdom. Some of the most trusted and popular set out here.

Find my local authority

Search by postcode for local authorities covering your area.

Guide to local government

The UK and devolved government websites have guides to local government, covering types and tiers of local authorities and their responsibilities.  Click to see the guides for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Representative bodies – councils

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the main representative body for local authorities in England, and also includes the Welsh LGA.  Scottish and Northern Irish councils are represented by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Northern Ireland LGA.

Parish, town and community councils are represented by the National Association of Local Councils in England and by One Voice Wales.

There are representative bodies for local councils for each English region and some city-regions.  These are:
Association of Greater Manchester Authorities
Association of North East Councils
East of England Local Government Association
East Midlands Councils
Local Government Yorkshire & Humber
London Councils
North West Regional Leaders Board
South East Councils
South West Councils
West Midlands Employers

Representative bodies – staff and elected members

UNISON and Unite are the largest trade unions representing local government employees.  Chief executives and senior officers are represented by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE).  The National Association of Councillors represents elected members.  There are a number of other representative bodies for specific fields within local government, for instance social services, road safety or leisure.

Elected mayors

Fifteen towns and cities in England have a directly-elected mayor.  This position is equivalent to the council leader position in other areas, but is chosen directly by local electors rather than by councillors.  Local referendums establish whether a directly-elected mayor will be introduced in an area.  Areas currently electing a mayor are Bedford, Bristol, Doncaster, Hackney, Lewisham, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Newham, North Tyneside, Salford, Torbay, Tower Hamlets and Watford.  For further information see this House of Commons Library briefing (December 2012).

Police and Crime Commissioners

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are directly elected across England and Wales, in 41 different constituents corresponding to local police services.  PCCs have responsibility for the strategic priorities and budget of theire local police service, and hold Chief Constables to account.  For further information see the UK government’s guide and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Regional and city-regional governance

There are various governance arrangements above the local authority level in the UK.  Nations other than England have devolved authorities: the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly.  Across England, local authorities are part of 39 local economic partnerships (LEPs), to decide on economic development priorities.  The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is a statutory partnership between local authorities , working alongside the LEP for the conurbation and with additional powers over transport.  London has a city-regional government in the Greater London Authority, comprised of the directly-elected Mayor of London and London Assembly, with strategic powers in transport, planning, economic development, skills, housing, culture and the environment.

Localism Act

The Localism Act 2011 reflects the current government’s main priorities in relation to reforming local government.  The legislation introduced a general power of competence and specific new freedoms for local authorities, and also created new rights for local communities.


Sources for local government news include The MJ, Local Government Chronicle, Local Government News, and The Guardian’s Local Leaders Network.


A number of academic and other centres focus on research relating to local government.  These include:
British Government @ LSE
Centre for Cities
Centre for Local and Regional Government Research (Cardiff University)
Institute of Local Government Studies (University of Birmingham)
Local Governance Research Unit (De Montfort University)
Local Government Information Unit
New Local Government Network