The government has made clear that it will consider bids from areas wishing to reorganise its local government structures. The aim is to make it more streamlined and efficient. There are different types of reorganisation. NALC thinks that local (parish and town) councils should be created in all non-parish areas when a Community Governance Review takes place in those areas. The needs/views of existing local councils should also be taken into account when Community Governance Reviews take place in parished areas. This new webpage will define reorganisation, capture recent context, show how NALC and county associations can help, provide case study thumbnails and signpost to further information.
Following successive reforms of local government, there remains a complex structure across England, added to which are the newly created combined authorities and various principal tier reorganisations being planned.
Despite uncertainties and concerns that arise from reorganisation, NALC and the LGA remain committed to effective partnership working with the need for cooperation and collaboration at a local level being greater than ever.
Within the context of NALC’s A prospectus for ultra-localism , local government reorganisation provides an opportunity for empowering local communities, building capacity, strengthening engagement and establishing flexible and diverse funding frameworks which protect and enhance service delivery in meeting cultural, economic and social needs.
Types of reorganisation
There are many different types of a local government reorganisation that factor in some or sometimes all of the various levels of local government. Here are some thumbnails as a summary:
Creation of county unitary councils – This involves the creation of a single (otherwise known as a unitary) council covering a county (often shire) area. Here (as in Cornwall in 2009) the entire middle tier of district and borough councils are removed (excepting those which are unitaries themselves). This then just leaves local councils under the county unitary. Very often county unitary areas are fully parished (e.g. Wiltshire).
Creation of unitary councils within a county area – This happens when there are new unitary local authorities created within a county area and at a smaller geopolitical spatial level than shire counties. This can be by amalgamating some former boroughs or districts, or can often be the creation of new city/district or borough unitaries (in 2009 Cheshire saw two new sub-county unitaries created).
Creation of new local councils – This happens as a result of a Community Governance Review (overseen by the relevant principal local authority) and can take place when a new county or sub-county unitary councils are created; or even independent of the creation of bigger new authorities – but the latter sees the creation of fewer local councils.
- The merger of district councils – sometimes district/borough councils are merged (for instance Suffolk Coastal and Waveney in East Suffolk) to create economies of scale and more efficiency. This sometimes leads indirectly to the creation of new local councils (in the Suffolk instance just given – Lowestoft Town Council, for instance).
How can NALC and county associations help?
Recognising concerns and uncertainty over the potential impact of Local Government Reorganisation in any given area, NALC and county associations have an important role to fulfil in helping local councils through such change. Assistance can be given in a range of ways depending on the type of organization requesting the query:
Campaign groups for new local councils: NALC have a range of case studies specifying how new local councils have been created in a range of different areas in England – on the Create A Council webpage. Campaign groups should also refer to Power To The People for technical guidance. Groups should also in the first instance contact their local county association for guidance, or contact NALC at .
Local councils undergoing reorganisation: Local councils in areas experiencing reorganisation should first contact their county association. Councils being split into different new local councils or undergoing Community Governance Reviews should refer to the case studies on the Create a Council webpage and the Legal Topic Note on Community Governance Reviews in the member's area of the website
County associations covering areas facing reorganisation: County associations covering geopolitical areas undergoing or likely to experience reorganisation should alert NALC in the first instance as to where reorganisation is likely to take place and the implications for local councils. It is then always a good idea to network with other county officers who are experiencing the same policy changes in their areas for advice and support. The Create A Council webpage is always useful. If you need a steer on the new council's aspects of reorganisation, contact NALC at or call on 020 7290 0741.
- Principal authorities: If you work for or are a member at a principal authority you need to contact the County Councils Network, the District Councils Network or the Local Government Association (LGA) for specific advice on reorganisation – depending on your type of principal authority. However, if you have any specific queries regarding the implications for the local council of reorganisation in your area, or technical queries, contact NALC at or call on 020 7290 0741.
NALC’s member's area on the website is the first port of call providing a wide range of online resources including Legal Topic Notes, Development Tools, Policy Briefings and case studies. Up-to-date information is included in the weekly bulletin, news feed, social media and LCR magazine. In addition, local councils can access the legal service (please log in to the member's area) offered by NALC. NALC also supports local councils through its training and events programme and leads on joint events with the LGA aimed at more effective partnership working between principal and local councils.
At a local level, county associations play a vital advocacy role, being a conduit for information between the principal authorities and local councils, as well as facilitating discussions with lead partners and stakeholders and promoting awareness about consultation. County associations also liaise on a regional and national basis and can impart lessons learnt and best practice from other county areas ensuring as smooth a transition as possible through reorganisation. NALC also offers assistance to local councils which have experienced reorganisation – through visits (offering technical expertise and advice).
Reorganisation and new council creation
There has recently been a greater convergence of interest in new local council creation in areas where local government reorganisation is taking place – particularly in areas such as Dorset and Suffolk.
In Dorset, a new Weymouth Town Council is being created in the wake of the outgoing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, and in Christchurch, it is likely there will be a new town council with new surrounding local councils filling the geopolitical boundaries of the outgoing borough council.
In Suffolk, West Row Parish Council will be created involving the splitting of an existing local council, again as a result of local council reorganisation
County associations, principal authorities and campaign groups wanting to create new local councils during a period of wider local government reorganisation in their areas need to refer to all of the relevant case studies and background information on the Create A Council webpage and refer to the Power To The People, which contains relevant information on the process and useful case studies.
The current state of play
The government seems to be warming to the creation of more unitary councils – where areas bid for them – here are a few very brief recent thumbnails:
West Suffolk – Parliament has given the nod of approval to the formation of a new West Suffolk Council.
Leicestershire – Leicestershire have started talks with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) regarding local government reorganisation favouring a single council with direct links to local communities through towns and parishes, and also find out how residents could be affected by suggested plans.
Dorset – In a historic moment for public services in Dorset, the government has given the green light to plans to create two new unitary councils in Dorset.
Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire is proceeding with plans to reorganise local government in the county – find out more
- Buckinghamshire – the government confirmed in 2018 it was minded to back the creation of a new county unitary council in Buckinghamshire
Below are a few short thumbnails highlighting new larger local councils which have been created as a result of a strategic unitary reorganisation in England:
- Salisbury City Council, Wiltshire – created in 2009 following the cessation of the former Salisbury Borough Council. This is now one of NALC’s emerging Super Council interest group, having a huge service and asset base (its precept income was £1,740,096 in 2017/18). It enjoys excellent working relations with Wiltshire Council.
- City of Durham Parish Council, County Durham – created on 1 April 2018 in the county unitary area of Durham. It's 2018/19 precept income is £150,000 per annum. It has very active Environment and Planning Committees and has sound working relations with Durham County Council (unitary).
- Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, Birmingham – formally created on 1 April 2016 in the urban unitary area of Birmingham. It's 2017/18 precept income was £1,832,982. It is currently involved in town centre revitalisation and a raft of other services and has effective working relations with Birmingham City Council, whilst also being a Super Council. Much local government reorganisation takes place in the wider context of onward devolution – read the Campaign to Protect Rural England report on devolution