The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Local government

Local governments are administrative offices of an area smaller than a state. The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or (where appropriate) federal government.

In modern nations, local governments usually have less powers than national governments do. They usually have some power to raise taxes, though these may be limited by central legislation. In some countries local government is partly or wholly funded by subventions from central government taxation. The question of Municipal Autonomy - which powers the local government has, or should have, and why - is a key question of public administration and governance.

The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, and village. However all these names are often used informally in countries where they do not describe a legal local government entity.

Main articles on each country will usually contain some information about local government, or links to an article with fuller information. The rest of this article gives information or links for countries where a relatively full description is available.



As a federal country, Australia has a number of States and Territories with wide ranging powers, and a lower tier of Local Governments. These arrangements are described in the articles Australian States and Territories and Local Government in Australia


According to its constitution, France has 3 levels of local government :

22 Régions and 4 Régions d'outre-mer (Réunion, Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana).

96 départements and 4 départements d'outre-mer (Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana).

There are 36 679 municipalities(in French: Communes).

Corsica and Paris form regional authorities of their own kind.


As a federal country, Germany is divided into a number of states (Länder in German), which used to have wide powers, but whose main remaining power today (2004) is their ability to veto federal laws through their Bundesrat representation. The system of local government is described in the article on States of Germany.


Since the Meiji restoration, Japan has had a simple and clear local government system.

First, Japan is divided into 47 prefectures. Each prefecture comprises cities, villages and towns. In Hokkaido, Nagasaki and Okinawa, there are branches of the prefectural government sometimes referred to as "Subprefectures".

New Zealand

New Zealand has two tiers of authorities. The top tier comprises the regional councils. The second tier is the territorial authorities consisting of city councils, district councils and one island council. Five territorial authorities are unitary authorities, that is they also perform the functions of a regional council.


For a description of the arrangements in force, see the section on Regions and Provinces in the article on the Philippines.

United Kingdom

Main article: Local Government in the United Kingdom

The system of local government is different in the four countries of the United Kingdom.


The most complex system is in England, the result of numerous attempts at reform and reorganisation over the centuries.

Above the level considered here is the European Union, the United Kingdom and whatever government offices may exist for England as a whole. England currently has no elected officials responsible solely for the entire country.

The top level of local government within England is now the region. There are nine regions including Greater London, which in some ways is a unique case. Each region has a government office and assorted other institutions. Regions appear to have been introduced in their present form arount 1994 and the policy of the current administration is to increase their power, including the introduction of elected assemblies where desired.

The layer of government below the regions is a mixture. Tradional counties still exist, although in the 1990s some of the districts within the counties became separate unitary authorities and a few counties have been disbanded completely. There are also metropolitan districts in some areas which are similar to unitary authorities. In Greater London there are London boroughs which are a similar concept.

Counties are further divided into districts (also known as boroughs in some areas).

Districts are divided into wards for electoral purposes.

Districts may also contain parishes and town council areas with a small administration of their own.

Other area classifications are also in use, such as health service and Lord-Lieutenant areas.

See also: Ceremonial counties of England, Districts of England, Administrative counties of England, Subdivisions of England, UK topics


Wales has a uniform system of unitary authorities, referred to as counties or county boroughs. There are also communities, equivalent to parishes.


See the section on Local Government in the article on Politics of Scotland

United States

Local government of the United States refers to the governments at the city, town, village, or civil township level in the United States of America. In the more general sense, local government also refers to state government, regional government, and county government.

See also

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:59:25
Last updated: 08-25-2005 00:35:50