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United Kingdom 

Key facts

POPULATION (Census 2011): 63,182,200
AREA: 242,900 sq km
CURRENCY: pound sterling (GBP)
HEAD OF STATE: HM Queen Elizabeth II
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT: Prime Minister David Cameron
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy
LANGUAGES: English (official); Welsh (recognised); Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish, Scots and Ulster Scots
NATIONAL ELECTIONS: last: 2010, turnout: 65.1%; next: 2015
England: last and next: various (see below), turnout: 31.1% (2012)
Wales: last: 2012, turnout: 44.8%; next: 2017
Scotland: last: 2007, turnout: 52.8%; next: 2017


The United Kingdom is a union of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no written constitution but there are a number of local government Acts for each country of the UK. There are also Acts pertaining to the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which have single-tier principal local government. England has no devolved government and there are both two-tier authorities made up of counties and districts (or boroughs), and single-tier councils known as unitary authorities. The lower tiers of local government in England and Wales are known as civic parishes; in Scotland there are community councils which are overseen by local government but are not a tier of local government; while in Northern Ireland there is no equivalent lower tier.
The government departments with responsibility for local government are: the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in England; the Director General for Governance and Communities in the Scottish Government; the Department of Local Government and Local Government Business in the Welsh Government; and the Department of the Environment within the Northern Ireland Executive. Over half of local government revenue comes via transfers from central government and a further quarter comes from a property-based local council tax. Responsibility for various functions is split in the two-tier system between county and district, while unitary authorities have sole responsibility for implementing all functions of local government. Parishes and community councils may manage community facilities such as village halls, war memorials, cemeteries, leisure facilities and playgrounds.

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