Non-metropolitan district

Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district in England. As created, they are sub-divisions of non-metropolitan counties (colloquially shire counties) in a two-tier arrangement. Non-metropolitan districts with borough status are known as boroughs, able to appoint a mayor and refer to itself as a borough council.

Non-metropolitan district
  • Also known as:
  • Shire district
CategoryLocal authority districts
Found inNon-metropolitan county
Created byLocal Government Act 1972
  • 1 April 1974
Number239 (as of 2021)
Possible types
  • Two-tier (181)
  • Unitary authority (58)
Possible status
  • City
  • Royal borough
  • Borough

Non-metropolitan districts

Non-metropolitan districts are subdivisions of English non-metropolitan counties which have a two-tier structure of local government.[1] Most non-metropolitan counties have a county council and several districts, each with a borough or district council. In these cases local government functions are divided between county and district councils, to the level where they can be practised most efficiently:

  • Borough/district councils are responsible for local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism.
  • County councils are responsible for running the largest and most expensive local services such as education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport, fire services, Trading Standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.
Service Non-metropolitan county Non-metropolitan district Unitary authority
Education Y Y
Housing Y Y
Planning applications Y Y
Strategic planning Y Y
Transport planning Y Y
Passenger transport Y Y
Highways Y Y
Fire Y Y
Social services Y Y
Libraries Y Y
Leisure and recreation Y Y
Waste collection Y Y
Waste disposal Y Y
Environmental health Y Y
Revenue collection Y Y


Many districts have borough status, which means the local council is called a borough council instead of district council and gives them the right to appoint a mayor. Borough status is granted by royal charter and, in many cases, continues a style enjoyed by a predecessor authority, which can date back centuries. Some districts such as Oxford or Exeter have city status, granted by letters patent, but this does not give the local council any extra powers other than the right to call itself a city council. Not all city or borough councils are non-metropolitan districts, many being unitary authorities – districts which are ceremonially part of a non-metropolitan county, but not run by the county council – or metropolitan districts – which are subdivisions of the metropolitan counties created in 1974, but whose county councils were abolished in 1986 and are effectively unitary authorities with similar powers.


By 1899, England had been divided at district level into rural districts, urban districts, municipal boroughs, county boroughs and metropolitan boroughs. This system was abolished by the London Government Act 1963 and the Local Government Act 1972. Non-metropolitan districts were created by this act in 1974 when England outside Greater London was divided into metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan counties. Metropolitan counties were sub-divided into metropolitan districts and the non-metropolitan counties were sub-divided into non-metropolitan districts. The metropolitan districts had more powers than their non-metropolitan counterparts. Initially, there were 296 non-metropolitan districts in the two-tier structure, but reforms in the 1990s and 2009 reduced their number to 192. A further 55 non-metropolitan districts are now unitary authorities, which combine the functions of county and borough/district councils.

Scotland and Wales

In Wales, an almost identical two-tier system of local government existed between 1974 and 1996 (see Districts of Wales). In 1996, this was abolished and replaced with an entirely unitary system of local government, with one level of local government responsible for all local services. Since the areas for Wales and England had been enacted separately and there were no Welsh metropolitan areas, the term 'non-metropolitan district' does not apply to Wales. A similar system existed in Scotland, which in 1975 was divided into regions and districts, this was also abolished in 1996 and replaced with a fully unitary system.

District Councils' Network

In England 200 out of the 201 non-metropolitan district councils are represented by the District Councils' Network,[2] special interest group which sits within the Local Government Association.[3] The network's purpose is to "act as an informed and representative advocate for districts to government and other national bodies, based on their unique position to deliver for ‘local’ people.”

List of counties and districts

This is a list of two-tier non-metropolitan counties and their districts. All unitary authorities are non-metropolitan districts, which, with the exception of those of Berkshire, are coterminous with non-metropolitan counties.

For a full list of districts of all types including unitary authorities, metropolitan districts and London boroughs, see Districts of England.

Non-metropolitan county
(excluding unitary authorities)
Non-metropolitan districts
(excluding unitary authorities)
CambridgeshireCambridge – South Cambridgeshire – Huntingdonshire – Fenland – East Cambridgeshire 005
CumbriaBarrow-in-Furness – South Lakeland – Copeland – Allerdale – Eden – Carlisle 006
DerbyshireHigh Peak – Derbyshire Dales – South Derbyshire – Erewash – Amber Valley – North East Derbyshire – Chesterfield – Bolsover 008
DevonExeter – East Devon – Mid Devon – North Devon – Torridge – West Devon – South Hams – Teignbridge 008
East SussexHastings – Rother – Wealden – Eastbourne – Lewes 005
EssexHarlow – Epping Forest – Brentwood – Basildon – Castle Point – Rochford – Maldon – Chelmsford – Uttlesford – Braintree – Colchester – Tendring 012
GloucestershireGloucester – Tewkesbury – Cheltenham – Cotswold – Stroud – Forest of Dean 006
HampshireGosport – Fareham – Winchester – Havant – East Hampshire – Hart – Rushmoor – Basingstoke and Deane – Test Valley – Eastleigh – New Forest 011
HertfordshireThree Rivers – Watford – Hertsmere – Welwyn Hatfield – Broxbourne – East Hertfordshire – Stevenage – North Hertfordshire – St Albans – Dacorum 010
KentDartford – Gravesham – Sevenoaks – Tonbridge and Malling – Tunbridge Wells – Maidstone – Swale – Ashford – Folkestone and Hythe – Canterbury – Dover – Thanet 012
LancashireWest Lancashire – Chorley – South Ribble – Fylde – Preston – Wyre – Lancaster – Ribble Valley – Pendle – Burnley – Rossendale – Hyndburn 012
LeicestershireCharnwood – Melton – Harborough – Oadby and Wigston – Blaby – Hinckley and Bosworth – North West Leicestershire 007
LincolnshireLincolnNorth KestevenSouth Kesteven – South Holland – Boston – East Lindsey – West Lindsey 007
NorfolkNorwich – South Norfolk – Great Yarmouth – Broadland – North Norfolk – King's Lynn and West Norfolk – Breckland 007
North YorkshireSelby – Harrogate – Craven – Richmondshire – Hambleton – Ryedale – Scarborough 007
NottinghamshireRushcliffe – Broxtowe – Ashfield – Gedling – Newark and Sherwood – Mansfield – Bassetlaw 007
OxfordshireOxford – Cherwell – South Oxfordshire – Vale of White Horse – West Oxfordshire 005
SomersetSouth Somerset – Somerset West and Taunton – Sedgemoor – Mendip 004
StaffordshireTamworth – Lichfield – Cannock Chase – South Staffordshire – Stafford – Newcastle-under-Lyme – Staffordshire Moorlands – East Staffordshire 008
SuffolkIpswich – Babergh – East Suffolk – Mid Suffolk – West Suffolk 005
SurreySpelthorne – Runnymede – Surrey Heath – Woking – Elmbridge – Guildford – Waverley – Mole Valley – Epsom and Ewell – Reigate and Banstead – Tandridge 011
WarwickshireNorth Warwickshire – Nuneaton and Bedworth – Rugby – Stratford-on-Avon – Warwick 005
West SussexWorthing – Arun – Chichester – Horsham – Crawley – Mid Sussex – Adur 007
WorcestershireWorcester – Malvern Hills – Wyre Forest – Bromsgrove – Redditch – Wychavon 006

List of abolished non-metropolitan districts

This is a list of former two-tier districts in England which have been abolished, by local government reorganisations such as the 2009 structural changes to local government in England. It does not include districts that still exist after becoming a unitary authority or those that transferred from one county to another, including those that changed name. Nor does it include unitary authorities that have been abolished (Bournemouth and Poole).

Non-metropolitan county (at time of abolition) Abolished non-metropolitan districts Number
AvonBath – Kingswood – Northavon – Wansdyke 04
BedfordshireMid Bedfordshire – South Bedfordshire 02
BuckinghamshireSouth Bucks – Chiltern – Wycombe – Aylesbury Vale 04
CheshireChester – Congleton – Crewe and Nantwich – Ellesmere Port and Neston – Macclesfield – Vale Royal 06
CornwallCaradon – Carrick – Kerrier – North Cornwall – Penwith – Restormel 06
Dorset Weymouth and Portland – West Dorset – North Dorset – Purbeck – East Dorset – Christchurch 06
DurhamDurham – Easington – Sedgefield – Chester-le-Street – Derwentside – Wear Valley – Teesdale 07
East SussexBrightonHove 02
Hereford and WorcesterHereford – Leominster – South Herefordshire 03
HumbersideBeverley – Boothferry – Cleethorpes – East Yorkshire – Glanford – Great Grimsby – Holderness – Scunthorpe 08
Isle of WightMedina – South Wight 02
KentGillingham – Rochester-upon-Medway 02
NorthamptonshireSouth Northamptonshire – Northampton – Daventry – Wellingborough – Kettering – Corby – East Northamptonshire 07
NorthumberlandBlyth Valley – Wansbeck – Castle Morpeth – Tynedale – Alnwick – Berwick-upon-Tweed 06
ShropshireBridgnorth – North Shropshire – Oswestry – Shrewsbury and Atcham – South Shropshire 05
SomersetTaunton Deane – West Somerset 02
SuffolkForest Heath – St Edmundsbury – Suffolk Coastal – Waveney 04
WiltshireKennet – North Wiltshire – Salisbury – West Wiltshire 04

See also

  • List of articles about local government in the United Kingdom
  • District Councils' Network
  • 2019 structural changes to local government in England


  1. National Statistics – Counties, Non-metropolitan Districts and Unitary Authorities Archived 9 May 2002 at the UK Government Web Archive
  2. "Members | District Councils' Network". Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  3. "Special interest groups | Local Government Association". Government of the United Kingdom. 30 August 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
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