Commonwealth Local Government Forum

United Kingdom

Key facts:

POPULATION (2011 Census): 63,181,775
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
LANGUAGES: English and Welsh (official); Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish, Scots and Ulster Scots (recognised)
NATIONAL ELECTIONS: last: 2015 turnout: 65.1% next: 2020
England: last and next: various turnout: 36% (2014)
Wales: last: 2012 turnout: 39% next: May 2017
Scotland: last: 2012 turnout: 39.7% next: May 2017
Northern Ireland: last: 2014 turnout: 51.3% next: May 2019
WOMEN COUNCILLORS: England: 31.0% (2010) Scotland: 23.9% (2015) Wales: 28.0% (2015) Northern Ireland: 25.1% (2015)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE (as a percentage of total government expenditure 2014/15): 19.9%


The United Kingdom is a union of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no written constitution but there are 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 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 are known as civic parishes; in Scotland and Wales there are community councils which are overseen by local government but are not a tier of local government; while in Northern Ireland the system changed on 1 April 2015, reducing the existing 26 district councils to 11 unitary councils. The departments with responsibility for local government are: the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in England; the Department of Local Government and Community Empowerment 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 Assembly. 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 local government functions. Parishes and community councils may manage community facilities such as village halls, war memorials, cemeteries, leisure facilities and playgrounds.

The Local Government Association (LGA) covers all local authorities in England and Wales, the latter through the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), which is a constituent part of the LGA but retains full autonomy in dealing with Welsh affairs. In Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) represents 28 of the 32 Scottish local authorities; the remaining four councils are now represented by the Scottish Local Government partnership (SLGP). The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) represents local councils in Northern Ireland, while London Councils represents the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. Among lower-level councils, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) represents over 80% of the community, parish and town councils in England and Wales, providing specialist advice and dealing with national issues. There are also 52 affiliated county associations providing more general support. In Wales most town and community councils are members of One Voice Wales.

Read the profile of the local government system in the UK.

CLGF activities in the United Kingdom

The UK has played an active role in the work of CLGF and the organisation is based in London. The 2016 for the first time the CLGF board will meet in London. Alongside the Board meeting, London will be playing host to the second meeting of the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Network. 
In 2005 the Commonwealth Local Government Conference was held in Aberdeen, Scotland, the outcome of which was the Aberdeen Agenda: Commonwealth principles on good practice for local democracy and good governance. In 2013, the Aberdeen Agenda was incorporated into the Commonwealth Charter, recognising the importance of local democracy as part of the organisation’s commitment to fundamental shared values. CLGF’s first major biennial Commonwealth Local Government Conference was held in 2000 in London, with around 100 participants hosted by the then newly elected Mayor of London.

One of CLGF’s first projects was to facilitate partnerships between councils in Malawi and UK councils to build management and governance capacity in five communities. The project, which ran from 1996, was supported by the European Union and was the model for CLGF’s flagship Commonwealth Local Government Good Practice Scheme, of which of the CLGF membership in the UK were actively involved from 2000-2010. UK local government continues to share technical support and advice across CLGF’s work and programmes.

CLGF members in the United Kingdom

Knowledge hub

Knowledge hub

Search the Europe section of the CLGF knowledge hub.



Board Members representing Europe

Board Members

Cllr Nick Small
Cllr Dr Marc Sant
Dr Philip Amis


News from CLGF in Europe

Latest news

Latest CLGF local government news and information from Europe.

United Kingdom
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