2019–2023 structural changes to local government in England
Structural changes to local government in England have taken place between 2019 and 2021, and will potentially continue in 2023. Ceremonial counties will not see any changes to their external boundaries, but in some cases their subdivisions will be altered.
Some of these changes continue the trend of new unitary authorities being created from other types of local government districts. This has been a policy of Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick since 2019.
Changes in 2019
In all new authorities created in 2019, new councils were elected on 2 May 2019, along with local elections in other parts of the country. See 2019 United Kingdom local elections for details.
- Status: Completed
On 1 April 2019, the ceremonial county of Dorset was changed from consisting of a non-metropolitan county (itself divided into six non-metropolitan districts) and two unitary authorities, into consisting of two unitary authorities. The new unitary authorities in Dorset are:
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, consisting of the old unitary authorities of Bournemouth and Poole as well as the non-metropolitan district of Christchurch
- Dorset Council, which merged the five remaining non-metropolitan districts of East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, and Weymouth and Portland, as well as the former county council
Charter trustees were established for Bournemouth and for Poole as a consequence. For details of the inaugural elections to the new councils, see 2019 Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council election and 2019 Dorset Council election.
- Status: Completed
On 1 April 2019, the number of districts in the non-metropolitan county of Somerset was reduced from five to four, when Taunton Deane and West Somerset were merged as Somerset West and Taunton. This new district is not a unitary authority, and the two-tier structure of county and district councils remains in place.
- Status: Completed
On 1 April 2019, the number of districts in Suffolk was reduced from seven to five. West Suffolk was created by merging Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury. East Suffolk was created by merging Suffolk Coastal and Waveney. These new districts are not unitary authorities, and the two-tier structure of county and district councils remains in place.
Changes in 2020
In all new authorities created in 2020, new councils were scheduled to be elected on 7 May 2020, along with local elections in other parts of the country. However, all local elections in the United Kingdom were postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so elections scheduled for 2020 were instead held on 6 May 2021. See 2021 United Kingdom local elections for details.
- Status: Completed
The existing Buckinghamshire County Council and the non-metropolitan districts of Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks, and Wycombe in Buckinghamshire was replaced by a single unitary authority known as Buckinghamshire Council on 1 April 2020. This plan was proposed by Martin Tett, leader of the county council, and backed by then-Communities Secretary James Brokenshire. It received approval from Parliament in May 2019. The existing unitary authority of Milton Keynes was not affected; since 1 April 2020, the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire has therefore been composed of two unitary authorities.
Before this was approved by Parliament, the district councils had proposed a different plan in which Aylesbury Vale would become a unitary authority and the three southern districts would become another unitary authority. The district councils opposed the single unitary Buckinghamshire plan, and considered legal action against it.
For details of the inaugural elections to the new council, see 2021 Buckinghamshire Council election.
Changes in 2021
In all new authorities created in 2021, new councils were elected on 6 May 2021, along with local elections in other parts of the country. See 2021 United Kingdom local elections for details.
- Status: Completed
- North Northamptonshire, consisting of the old non-metropolitan districts of Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, and Wellingborough
- West Northamptonshire, consisting of the old non-metropolitan districts of Daventry, Northampton, and South Northamptonshire
The Conservative national government proposed the changes in Northamptonshire as a cost saving measure, as the Conservative-led county council had been experiencing financial difficulty. The joint committee for West Northamptonshire claimed that the changes would save 85 million pounds per year. The Northamptonshire (Structural Change) Order 2019 (SCO) was brought before Parliament in October 2019, but due to the dissolution of Parliament on 6 November leading up to the general election on 12 December 2019, the changes were not then given final approval. Parliament went on Christmas break after the election, and the Order was eventually made on 14 February 2020.
Cumbria and Lancashire
In October 2020, the UK government invited proposals for reform of arrangements in Cumbria by 2023. Currently, the area is served by the Cumbria County Council, as well as six non-metropolitan district councils.
The idea of a Morecambe Bay authority has been proposed several times previously. If the Redcliffe-Maud Report had been implemented, Furness & North Lancashire would have been one of the unitary authorities within the North West Province. Before the unsuccessful 2004 North East England devolution referendum, when similar referendums were also planned in North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber, one proposed structure below the region level in North West England would have created a Morecambe Bay unitary authority, with the rest of Cumbria and Lancashire being divided into more unitary authorities.
In October 2020, the UK government invited proposals for reform of arrangements in North Yorkshire by 2023. Later that year, North Yorkshire County Council proposed a unitary authority to replace existing non-metropolitan districts (but not the City of York, which is already a separate unitary authority).
Around the same time, the districts of Craven, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby submitted a proposal for an "East & West model" of two unitary councils in North Yorkshire. The two new councils for North Yorkshire and York would cover Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and York in the east, and Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire in the west.
Changes in Somerset have been under consideration since at least 2018. In October 2020, the UK government invited proposals for reform of arrangements in Somerset by 2023. There are two rival proposals: a single unitary council, or two unitary councils (east and west).
In 2020, Somerset County Council submitted a proposal known as "One Somerset" to the Government. Under this plan, the county council and the four non-metropolitan districts of Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton and South Somerset would be replaced by a single unitary authority. The proposal awaits approval by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and by Parliament.
The four district councils have created a rival proposal, known as "Stronger Somerset", where the county and district councils would be replaced by two unitary authorities. Mendip and South Somerset would be merged to create Eastern Somerset, while Sedgemoor and Somerset West and Taunton would be merged to create Western Somerset. The district councils argue that a single authority would be too far removed from the citizens, and say that forming two instead of one would help save £204 million. District councillors agreed to this plan in August 2020, but it too awaits approval by the Communities Secretary and by Parliament.
The existing unitary authorities of Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset would not be affected under either plan; depending on whether the One Somerset or Stronger Somerset plan is implemented, the ceremonial county of Somerset would be composed of either three or four unitary authorities.
- History of local government in England
- Local government in England
- Earlier local government reforms:
- Local Government Chronicle https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/governance-and-structure/jenrick-no-long-term-future-for-districts-in-devo-push-02-10-2019/
- The Local Government (Structural and Boundary Changes) (Supplementary Provision and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019
- New unitary authorities formally takeover from Dorset’s nine councils from Public Sector Executive
- Buckinghamshire unitary council plan gets go-ahead from BBC News
- The Buckinghamshire (Structural Changes) Order 2019
- District council joins plans to take legal action over 'undemocratic' unitary authority from Bucks Free Press
- The Northamptonshire (Structural Changes) Order 2020
- Northamptonshire: Crisis council replacement plan decision postponed from BBC News
- Northamptonshire County Council replacement 'will save £85m a year' from BBC News
- Unitary councils - Update on unitary legislation from northamptonshire.gov.uk
- "Government invites Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset to submit locally-led proposals for unitary local government". GOV.UK. Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. 9 October 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
- Local government reorganisation in Cumbria from Allerdale Borough Council
- Rushworth, Jason (10 November 2020). "Plans to merge three councils could see improved services". North West Evening Mail. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
- Peters, Dan (9 October 2020). "Three areas invited to submit unitary proposals". LocalGov.co.uk. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
- "LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHAKE-UP: Council agrees to submit plan for 'best way ahead'". Ilkley Gazette. 5 November 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
- "East & West full proposal goes to government". Get change right. Ryedale District Council. 10 December 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
- Cole, Amy (2 May 2018). "REVEALED: Plans to scrap SIX Somerset councils in bid to save millions". Somerset County Gazette. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
- County Gazette https://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/18811829.unitary-somerset-based-giant-lie-the-right-way-forward-countys-future/
- Jones, Paul (15 August 2020). "What you need to know about plans for a unitary authority in Somerset". Somerset County Gazette. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
- "FAQ's and myth-busting". One Somerset. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
- "Somerset council's rival unitary bid 'will save £204m'". BBC News. 27 August 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
- Eichler, William (16 September 2020). "Somerset councils vote to establish two unitary authorities". localgov.co.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
- Mumby, Daniel; Taylor, Michael (27 August 2020). "What to know about plans to abolish and replace Somerset's councils". SomersetLive. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
- "FAQ". Stronger Somerset. Retrieved 26 September 2020.