Cardiff City Council

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Cardiff City Council

Cyngor Dinas Caerdydd
Founded1 April 1974
Disbanded1 April 1996
Preceded byCardiff County Borough Council
Succeeded byCardiff Council
First election
10 May 1973
Last election
2 May 1991
Next election

Cardiff City Council was the local government district authority that administered the city of Cardiff, capital of Wales, from 1974 until 1996. The district council replaced the pre-1974 county borough council. It was succeeded in 1996 by Cardiff Council.


Local government in England and Wales was reorganised following the Local Government Act 1972. The old administrative county of Glamorgan was subdivided, with Cardiff and the Vale between Cardiff and Bridgend forming South Glamorgan. South Glamorgan County Council came into existence on 1 April 1974.[1] The administration of the area was further subdivided between the two district councils, Cardiff City Council (later Cardiff Council) and the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council (later the Vale of Glamorgan Council).[2]

Cardiff City Council ceased to exist following the 1996 local government reorganisation, replaced by the unitary authority of the Cardiff Council. In effect, the old city council took over the county level functions of the abolished South Glamorgan County Council.

Political control[edit]

Prior to 1974, Cardiff had traditionally been a Conservative Party stronghold, but the city council's first administration in 1974 had a Labour Party majority, reflecting the changing social composition of the city. Control of the council changed regularly during its existence, between Labour, Conservative and a period from 1987 to 1991 when no party had a majority.[3] The first election to the reconstituted council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until it came into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council from 1974 until its abolition in 1996 was held by the following parties:[4]

Party in control Years
Labour 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1979
Labour 1979–1983
Conservative 1983–1987
No overall control 1987–1991
Labour 1991–1996


The leaders of the council included:

Councillor Party From To
Philip Dunleavy Labour 1974 1976
Philip Dunleavy Labour 1979 1982
Ron Watkiss Conservative 1983 1987
John Reynolds Labour 1987 1990
John Phillips Labour 1990 1994
Sue Essex Labour 1994 1996

Labour's Philip Dunleavy was the first leader of the council from 1974 to 1976, then again from 1979 to 1982 (when Labour regained its majority). He became Lord Mayor of Cardiff in 1982-3.[5] Dunleavy was a driving force behind the creation of St David's Hall, the Cardiff Ice Rink and other initiatives.[5]

Councillor Ron Watkiss was Conservative leader of the council during their majority administration, which ended in May 1987.[6]

Llanrumney councillor John Reynolds became leader of the minority Labour administration in 1987 (he had been leader of the Labour group since 1983). He died in 1990.[7]

Councillor John Phillips subsequently became leader of the Labour group. Described as a Labour 'traditionalist', in 1994 he was ousted by Sue Essex of the 'new urban left', who had been promoting a green agenda in Cardiff through the 1990s.[3]

The last leader of the city council, Sue Essex, narrowly lost to Russell Goodway (the last leader of South Glamorgan County Council) in the election to be leader of the Labour group and hence the new council.[8]


At the first Cardiff City Council elections in 1973, 75 city councillors were elected from 21 electoral wards. From 1983, the number of wards increased to 26. From 1987, the number of councillors reduced to 65.[9]

Year Seats Labour Conservative Liberal Democrats[a] Other Notes
1973 75 42 33 - -
1976 75 29 44 - 2
1979 75 41 34 - -
1983 65 28 44 3 - New ward boundaries.[10]
1987 65 29 25 11 -
1991 65 39 16 9 1
  1. ^ Includes Liberals and SDP pre-1988.

Party with most elected councillors in bold.


The council was headquartered at City Hall in Cathays Park, which had been built in 1905 for the former Cardiff County Borough Council.


  • Alan Hooper; John Punter (Eds.) Capital Cardiff 1975–2020: Regeneration, Competitiveness and the Urban Environment. University of Wales Press (2006), ISBN 0-7083-2063-5.


  1. ^ South Glamorgan/De Morgannwg: Directory of Services. South Glamorgan County Council. March 1975.
  2. ^ Stewart Williams (Ed.), The Cardiff Book: Volume I., Stewart Williams Publishers (1973), p. 8. ISBN 0-900807-05-9.
  3. ^ a b Capital Cardiff 1975-2020: Regeneration, Competitiveness and the Urban Environment, page 35.
  4. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b Tony Heath (18 January 1996). "OBITUARY: Philip Dunleavy". The Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  6. ^ Michael Thomas (6 May 1987). "City Tory chief challenges Labour claims". South Wales Echo. p. 1.
  7. ^ "D1440 - John Reynolds of Cardiff, Papers - 1940s-2002". Glamorgan Archives. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  8. ^ Capital Cardiff 1975–2020: Regeneration, Competitiveness and the Urban Environment, pp. 35-36
  9. ^ "Cardiff Welsh District County Council Election Results 1973-1991" (PDF). The Elections Centre (Plymouth University). Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  10. ^ "The City of Cardiff (Electoral Arrangements) Order 1982",, The National Archives, SI 1982/556, retrieved 26 October 2022