This system remained in place until the middle of the 20th century.
In 1965, London government was reformed, creating a ‘city region’
for the capital with a ‘strategic’ city-wide authority and 32 local
councils (plus the City of London). A Royal Commission on Local
Government in England proposed (Redcliffe-Maud Report) in 1969
that existing councils in England be abolished and replaced by new
‘unitary’ (i.e., all-purpose) authorities based on larger towns. In
three areas (Merseyside, South East Lancashire/North East Cheshire
and the West Midlands/Birmingham) there would be metropolitan
authorities plus unitaries. A dissenting memorandum was published
by Derek Senior, a Commission member, proposing a two-tier system
of provinces, city-regions and districts.
The Conservative government that took office in 1970 decided not to
go ahead with either the Redcliffe-Maud or the Senior proposals, but
with a two-tier system for the whole of England. The reform included
metropolitan counties for Merseyside, Greater Manchester, West
Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear and the West Midlands.
Reforms to the structure of local government took place in the rest of
England and Wales in 1974 and, separately, in Scotland in 1975.
From this point on, there have been a series of changes which
amount to a rolling reform of local and city government in England.
Labour’s ‘organic change’ policy allowed a number of former county
boroughs to become all-purpose authorities during the later 1970s.
The Conservatives then abolished the metropolitan counties and the
Greater London Council in 1986. During the 1990s, the Conservative
government initiated a process whereby new authorities could be
created by breaking up former county/district areas into a series
of unitary councils. This process is still ongoing. Scotland and
Wales moved to full unitary council systems. Northern Ireland cut
the number of district councils from 26 to 11 in 2015. From 1997
onwards, Labour introduced devolution to Scotland and Wales,
while creating the mayor and Assembly in London. Mayors were also
introduced, following local referendums, in a number of other towns
and cities. Towards the end of Labour’s term of office, legislation was
introduced to allow the creation of statutory Combined Authorities