Local Government in England is divided into several levels, or tiers:

  • County councils, which are the first level of government below Central Government;
  • District councils; or
  • Unitary authorities which undertake all the responsibilities of County and District Authorities; and
  • Parish and town councils.

A parish council or town council is the first tier of civil government. Its powers are defined and granted by acts of Parliament and no expenditure can be made by a council except in accordance with those powers. A parish council can be thought of as the "eyes, ears and voice of its local community\u201d, relaying the opinions and views of local people to higher levels of government. Parish councils have tax raising powers and can make bye-laws to improve the governance of their areas.

The next level of local government above parish councils is the district authority or council, which has responsibility for areas such as:

  • local planning;
  • environmental services; and
  • housing.

Above the district council is the county council, whose obligations include:

  • education;
  • highways;
  • strategic planning; and
  • waste disposal

As noted above, unitary authorities take on the responsibilities and powers of county and district councils.