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The wards and electoral divisions in the United Kingdom are electoral districts at sub-national level, represented by one or more councillors. The wards is the primary unit of English electoral geography for civil parishes and borough and district councils, the electoral ward is the unit used by Welsh principal councils, while the electoral division is the unit used by English county councils and some unitary authorities. Each ward/division has an average electorate of about 5,500 people, but ward population counts can vary substantially. As of 2021 there are 8,694 electoral wards/divisions in the UK. An average area of wards in the United Kingdom is 27 km2 (70 sq mi).
The London boroughs, metropolitan boroughs and non-metropolitan districts (including most unitary authorities) are divided into wards for local elections. However, county council elections (as well as those for several unitary councils which were formerly county councils, such as the Isle of Wight and Shropshire Councils) instead use the term electoral division. In non-metropolitan county areas with both wards (used for district council elections) and electoral divisions (used for county council elections), the boundaries of the two types of divisions may sometimes not coincide, but more often the county electoral divisions will be made up of one or more complete wards.
In urban areas, the wards within a local authority area typically each contain roughly the same number of electors, and each elect three councillors. In local authorities with mixed urban and rural areas, the number of councillors may vary from one to three, depending on the size of the electorate. Where civil parishes exist, a ward can be adjacent with a civil parish or consist of groups of civil parishes. Larger civil parishes (such as Shrewsbury) can be divided into two or more wards.
City of London
Isles of Scilly
The Council of the Isles of Scilly is also a sui generis unitary authority, and has five wards, each returning either 1 or (in the case of St Mary's) 12 councillors to the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
Civil parishes in England are sometimes divided into wards for elections to the parish council (or town/city council). They need not bear any relation to wards or electoral divisions at district level, but often do.
The four most northerly ancient counties of England – Cumberland, Westmorland, County Durham and Northumberland – were historically divided into administrative units called wards instead of hundreds or wapentakes, as in other counties. Wards were areas originally organised for military purposes, each centred on a castle.
All of Scotland is divided into over 300 wards for local government elections. Using the single transferable vote, most wards elect either three or four councillors. Starting from the 2022 Scottish local elections, the Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020, allows electoral wards to have between one and five councillors.
Districts in Northern Ireland are divided into electoral areas, with each electing between five and seven councillors by single transferable vote. These are themselves sub-divided into wards, but these wards have no official function. Post-1973 wards were first created by the Local Government (Boundaries) (NI) Order 1972 (No. 131) and DEAs were first created by the Local Government (District Electoral Areas) Regulations 1973 (No.94)
- ONS Electoral wards/divisions (www.ons.gov.uk) Retrieved 15 June 2014
- "England - Office for National Statistics". www.ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
- Council of the Isles of Scilly Elections
- W. L. Warren, The Myth of Norman Administrative Efficiency: The Prothero Lecture in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., Vol. 34. (1984), p. 125
- "Local Government Act 1972 § 25". The National Archives. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
- "Local Government Act 1972 § 35". The National Archives. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
- "Research: Electoral Wards and Polling Districts - Research and data - Scottish Borders Council".
- "Administrative Boundary Maps". Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
- Office For National Statistics list of UK wards as of 31 December 2011 , Retrieved 15 June 2014.