Types of council

This guide relates to councils in England. Find information about councils in Scotland, councils in Wales and councils in Northern Ireland.

Many parts of England have 2 tiers of local government:

  • county councils
  • district, borough or city councils

In some parts of the country, there’s just 1 (unitary) tier of local government providing all the local services. The 3 main types are:

  • unitary authorities in shire areas
  • London boroughs
  • metropolitan boroughs

County councils

These are responsible for services across the whole of a county, like:

  • education
  • transport
  • planning
  • fire and public safety
  • social care
  • libraries
  • waste management
  • trading standards

District, borough and city councils

These cover a smaller area than county councils. They’re usually responsible for services like:

  • rubbish collection
  • recycling
  • Council Tax collections
  • housing
  • planning applications

Unitary authorities and London and metropolitan boroughs

In some parts of the country, 1 tier of local government provides all the local services listed above.

In London and metropolitan areas some services, like fire, police and public transport, are provided through ‘joint authorities’ (in London by the Greater London Authority).

Parish, community and town councils

These operate at a level below district and borough councils and in some cases, unitary authorities.

They’re elected and can help on a number of local issues, like providing:

  • allotments
  • public clocks
  • bus shelters
  • community centres
  • play areas and play equipment
  • grants to help local organisations
  • consultation on neighbourhood planning

They also have the power to issue fixed penalty fines for things like:

  • litter
  • graffiti
  • fly posting
  • dog offences