The English system of local government is highly complex. England is subdivided into nine regional authorities, and only one of these – London – has an elected assembly and mayor.
Below this regional level there are two main types of local government: county councils and district councils. Unitary authorities combine these two strata into a single authority.
Since the Local Government Act 2000 most councils have moved to an executive-based system, either with a council leader and a cabinet acting as an executive authority, or with a directly elected mayor. A number of district councils (those with populations of less than 85,000) are governed by a committee system.
In 2014 there were 16 directly elected mayors, all of them in districts that voted in a referendum in favour of them.
Councils that have not opted for a directly elected mayor are headed by a civic mayor or chairman of the council, who is elected by their fellow councillors. In some cities the mayor is known as the lord mayor. The office of mayor or lord mayor is a ceremonial position.
Local councillors are elected for four-year terms by the local community to represent its views.
The British Sovereign’s personal representatives in the UK are known as lord-lieutenants. This position dates back to the mid- 16th century.
Lord-lieutenants are appointed by The Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister, for each county in England and Wales, and each area in Scotland (other than the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow where the Lord Provost is, by virtue of his office, lord-lieutenant for that city).
These non-political appointees are normally retired people with a substantial local reputation.
Within each county, high sheriffs are appointed for a year as the Sovereign’s judicial representative.