Explanation of local government in Leicestershire

The Difference between Unitary and Two-Tiered Local Councils

Most councils operate under a Two Tiered system. This is where a County Council covers the same area as one or more District or Borough Councils. Town or Parish Councils may also form another tier covering smaller areas within counties and districts.

Generally the County Council has responsibility for things like transport, education, social services, museums etc. The District or Borough Council covers areas like housing, refuse collection, leisure and so on.

Unitary councils generally cover smaller areas than counties but are responsible for all local services within their boundaries. Many metropolitan areas have unitary councils as do London Boroughs. In the last few years local government has been reorganised so there are more unitary authorities. All of Scotland and Wales now have the Unitary system.

What about Leicestershire and Leicester?

Leicestershire used to operate under a two-tier system with Leicester City Council and various Boroughs/Districts forming one tier with the County Council forming the other. However in 1996 it was decided that Leicester City and Rutland should become unitary authorities with the rest of the County keeping the 2-tier system.

The result of all this was that although Leicester City had held it's four-yearly election in 1995, there had to be fresh elections for the new Leicester unitary authority in 1996. The elections were contested over the same boundaries to elect the same number of councillors and so can be freely compared to each other.

Rutland District council also went through a similar procedure. In 1995 the normal four-yearly full district council elections were held. However in 1996 elections were held using the same ward boundaries for the new unitary authority of Rutland.

Leicester City and Rutland both legally became unitary authorities in April 1997. The elections were held a year early so that the new councils could "shadow" their predecessors and plan for the extra responsibilities of unitary status.

Information Supplier: Ian Ridley
Last Updated: Sept 1998