What is local government?

Local government touches the lives of everybody, every day.

Local government is responsible for a range of vital services for people and businesses in defined areas. Among them are well known functions such as social care, schools, housing and planning and waste collection, but also lesser known ones such as licensing, business support, registrar services and pest control.

In England, more than one million people work in local government across a range of different types of authorities, providing more than 800 different services to local communities.

Local councils, which is the most common type of local authority, are made up of councillors who are elected by the public in local elections.

Councillors work with local people and partners, such as local businesses and other organisations, to agree and deliver on local priorities. The decisions are implemented by permanent council staff, council officers, who deliver services on a daily basis.

Types of local government

Depending on where you live, local government consists of at least one or two tiers of authorities. Two tiers, with responsibilities of local services divided between them:

  • 21 county councils
  • 164 district, borough or city councils

One (unitary) tier providing all services:

  • 63 unitary councils
  • 33 London boroughs
  • 36 metropolitan boroughs

Across England, there are also around 9,000 parish and town councils, 10 National Parks responsible for conservation and promotion of scenic areas, as well as local authorities responsible specifically for policing and fire and rescue services.

Since the passing of new legislation in 2009, there is an additional type of regional authority, Combined Authorities, where two or more councils collaborate and take collective decisions across council boundaries.

Funding of local government

Local authorities receive funding from a range of sources, including Government grants, council tax and fees and charges. Together, council tax and business rates make up local authorities’ largest source of income. 

Funding of local taxation: council tax and business rates

Further reading and resources