City of York Council

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City of York Council
Chris Cullwick,
Liberal Democrats
since 25 May 2023[1]
Claire Douglas,
since 25 May 2023
Ian Floyd
since 2020[2]
Seats47 councillors
City of York Council composition
Political groups
Administration (24)
  Labour (24)
Other parties (23)
  Liberal Democrats (19)
  Conservative (3)
  Independent (1)
Length of term
Whole council elected every four years
Plurality-at-large voting
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

City of York Council is the local authority for York, in Yorkshire, England. York has had a city council from medieval times, which has been reformed on numerous occasions. Since 1996 the council has been a unitary authority, performing both district-level and county-level functions. It is composed of 47 councillors and has been under Labour majority control since 2023. The council is based at West Offices on Station Rise.


York was an ancient borough, which held city status from time immemorial. In 1396 the city was given the right to appoint its own sheriffs, making it a county corporate, outside the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of Yorkshire.[3] In 1449 an adjoining rural area called the Ainsty, covering several villages to the south-west of York, was brought under the city's authority.[4]

By the nineteenth century the city corporation's powers were deemed inadequate to deal with the challenges of providing and maintaining the infrastructure of the city. A separate body of improvement commissioners was established in 1825 to pave, light and repair the streets, provide a watch, and supply water.[5][6]

York was reformed in 1836 to become a municipal borough under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, which standardised how many boroughs operated across the country. The city was then governed by a body formally called the "lord mayor, aldermen and citizens of the city of York", generally known as the corporation or city council.[7] Shortly afterwards the question arose as to whether the reformed corporation's area still included the Ainsty. This was resolved later in 1836 when the Municipal Corporation (Boundaries) Act 1836 confirmed that the municipal boundaries only covered the city proper, and the Ainsty was transferred to the West Riding.[8]

The improvement commissioners continued to exist alongside the reformed corporation until 1850, when the city was also made a local board district with the city council acting as the local board, thereby taking over the responsibilities of the abolished commissioners.[9]

The city's municipal boundaries were enlarged on a number of occasions, notably in 1884 when it gained areas including Clifton and Heworth, and in 1937 when it gained areas including Acomb, Dringhouses and Middlethorpe. There were more modest adjustments to the boundaries in 1934, 1957 and 1968.[10][11]

When elected county councils were established in 1889 under the Local Government Act 1888, York was considered large enough to provide its own county-level services and so it was made a county borough, independent from the three county councils established for the surrounding East Riding, North Riding and West Riding.[12] For lieutenancy purposes York was deemed part of the West Riding.[13]

York was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan district in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. As part of those reforms, the city was placed in the new non-metropolitan county of North Yorkshire, with the city council ceding county-level functions to the new North Yorkshire County Council. The city retained the same boundaries at the time of the 1974 reforms.[14]

In 1996, following a review under the Local Government Act 1992, the district was replaced by a unitary authority with significantly larger boundaries, gaining a number of civil parishes from the neighbouring districts of Harrogate, Ryedale and Selby. Some of these parishes were already effectively suburbs, having been absorbed into the city's urban area since the boundaries had last been reviewed in 1968; others formed part of the rural hinterland around the city.[15] The city remains part of the wider ceremonial county of North Yorkshire for the purposes of lieutenancy.[16]

Local government across North Yorkshire was reviewed again in 2023, when North Yorkshire County Council also became a unitary authority, and rebranded itself as North Yorkshire Council. As part of the process leading up to those reforms various alternatives were considered, some of which would have divided North Yorkshire into smaller unitary authorities which could have included York, but these alternatives were ultimately rejected.[17][18][19][20]

Instead, it was decided to create a new combined authority led by a directly elected mayor covering both York and North Yorkshire. The first election for the new mayor will take place in May 2024.[21][22]


City of York Council provides both county-level and district-level services. Parts of the city are included in civil parishes, which form a second tier of local government for their areas. The central part of the modern city, corresponding to the former city boundaries as existed between 1968 and 1996, is an unparished area.[23][24]

Political control[edit]

Following the 2023 election the Labour Party emerged with a majority. The leader is Claire Douglas, the first female council leader in the city's history.[25]

Political control of the council since the 1974 reforms has been as follows:[26][27][28]

Non-metropolitan district

Party in control Years
No overall control 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1980
No overall control 1980–1986
Labour 1986–1996

Unitary authority

Party in control Years
Labour 1996–2000
No overall control 2000–2003
Liberal Democrats 2003–2007
No overall control 2007–2011
Labour 2011–2015
No overall control 2015–2023
Labour 2023–present


The role of Lord Mayor of York is largely ceremonial, and tends to be held by a different person each year. Political leadership is provided instead by the leader of the council. The leaders since 1984 have been:[29]

Councillor Party From To
Rod Hills[30][31] Labour 1984 May 2002
Dave Merrett Labour 15 Jul 2002 May 2003
Steve Galloway[32] Liberal Democrats May 2003 22 May 2008
Andrew Waller Liberal Democrats 22 May 2008 8 May 2011
James Alexander[33] Labour 26 May 2011 11 Dec 2014
Dafydd Williams Labour 11 Dec 2014 21 May 2015
Chris Steward[34] Conservative 21 May 2015 May 2016
David Carr Conservative 26 May 2016 22 Feb 2018
Ian Gillies Conservative 8 Mar 2018 5 May 2019
Keith Aspden Liberal Democrats 22 May 2019 7 May 2023
Claire Douglas Labour 25 May 2023


Following the 2023 election the composition of the council was:[35]

Party Councillors
Labour 24
Liberal Democrats 19
Conservative 3
Independent 1
Total 47

The next election is due in 2027.


Since the last boundary changes in 2015 the council has comprised 47 councillors representing 21 wards, with each ward electing one, two or three councillors. Elections are held every four years.[36]


Back of West Offices, showing the 2013 extension.

The council is based at West Offices on Station Rise, which is the converted and extended original York railway station of 1841.[37] The council moved into the newly-extended building in 2013.[38]

Guildhall, York: Council's former headquarters, where the council chamber is still used for some full council meetings.

Prior to 2013 the council was based at York Guildhall on the banks of the River Ouse, the oldest parts of which date back to the fifteenth century.[39] Full council meetings are still occasionally held in the council chamber at the Guildhall, which is now occupied by the University of York.[40]

Social care[edit]

In October 2020 the council provided older people in the city with smart watches, which monitor a range of indicators including body temperature, heart rate, sleep patterns and step count. They are supported by sensors in their homes that can capture temperature and humidity, movement, how often doors open and close and power consumption. The service is provided by Sensing247 and North SP Group Limited and is intended to help people stay independent.[41]


  1. ^ "Council minutes, 25 May 2023". City of York Council. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  2. ^ Ford, Martin (3 November 2020). "York appoints first chief operating officer". Municipal Journal. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  3. ^ A History of the County of York. London: Victoria County History. 1961. pp. 69–75. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  4. ^ A History of the County of York. London: Victoria County History. 1961. pp. 75–79. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  5. ^ "York Improvement Act 1825". The National Archives. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  6. ^ "York City (Improvement) Commissioners". JISC Archives Hub. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  7. ^ Municipal Corporations Act. 1835. p. 461. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  8. ^ Pratt, John Tidd (1836). "An Act to make temporary provision for the boundaries of certain boroughs (6 & 7 Will 4 c 103)". A collection of the public general statutes passed in the last session (6 & 7 W IV). p. 191. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  9. ^ Lawes, Edward (1851). The Act for promoting the Public Health, with notes, an analytic index, and the Nuisances Removals and Diseases Prevention Act 1848, some additional forms and a table of rates, etc. pp. 270–271. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  10. ^ A History of the County of York. London: Victoria County History. 1961. pp. 311–321. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  11. ^ "York Municipal Borough / County Borough". A Vision of Britain through Time. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  12. ^ "Local Government Act 1888",, The National Archives, 1888 c. 41, retrieved 18 February 2024
  13. ^ Militia Act. 1882. p. 21. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  14. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972",, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 18 February 2024
  15. ^ "The North Yorkshire (District of York) (Structural and Boundary Changes) Order 1995",, The National Archives, SI 1995/610, retrieved 18 February 2024
  16. ^ "Lieutenancies Act 1997",, The National Archives, 1978 c. 23, retrieved 18 February 2024
  17. ^ Peters, Dan (9 October 2020). "Three areas invited to submit unitary proposals". Archived from the original on 15 October 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Invitation for proposals for a single tier of local government" (PDF). 9 October 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  19. ^ "East & West full proposal goes to government". Get change right. Ryedale District Council. 10 December 2020. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  20. ^ "Next steps for new unitary councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset". GOV.UK. Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. 21 July 2021. Archived from the original on 21 July 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  21. ^ "A unitary council for North Yorkshire. The case for change" (PDF). North Yorkshire County Council. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2023. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  22. ^ "The York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority Order 2023",, The National Archives, SI 2023/1432, retrieved 18 February 2024
  23. ^ "Election Maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  24. ^ "Yorkshire West Riding (North part): Diagram showing administrative boundaries, 1968". National Library of Scotland. Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  25. ^ Lewis, Stephen (5 May 2023). "Labour take control of City of York Council". York Press. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  26. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  27. ^ "Local elections 2019: What happens when councils change hands?". BBC News. 30 April 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  28. ^ "English local elections 2007 : York". BBC News Online. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  29. ^ "Council minutes". City of York Council. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  30. ^ "Leader sacked as probe continues". Northern Echo. 16 June 2002. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  31. ^ Wainwright, Martin (15 August 2003). "Rod Hills". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  32. ^ Aitchison, Gavin (8 May 2008). "Galloway to stand down as City of York Council leader". York Press. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  33. ^ "James Alexander quits as council leader". York Press. 19 November 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  34. ^ "York council leader resigns after suffering stroke; next leader revealed". York Mix. 11 May 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  35. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  36. ^ "The York (Electoral Changes) Order 2014",, The National Archives, SI 2014/3289, retrieved 18 February 2024
  37. ^ Historic England. "Old station and former station hotel (Grade II*) (1256403)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  38. ^ "West Offices Official Opening Ceremony". City of York Council. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  39. ^ Historic England. "Guildhall and Chamber Range, Atkinson block, Common Hall Lane and boundary wall containing entrance to lane (1257929)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  40. ^ "York council hands over keys after £21m Guildhall renovation". York Press. 17 May 2022. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  41. ^ "Smart watches trialed in York to help older people stay safe at home". Homecare Insight. 5 October 2020. Retrieved 16 November 2020.

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