Greater Manchester County Council

Greater Manchester Council
Greater Manchester
Coat of arms or logo
Established1 April 1974
Disbanded31 March 1986
Preceded byVarious authorities, including Cheshire County Council, Lancashire County Council, and West Riding County Council
Succeeded byVarious agencies and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities
Meeting place
Town Hall, Manchester, England

The Greater Manchester County Council (GMCC) was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater Manchester from 1974 to 1986. A strategic authority, with responsibilities for roads, public transport, planning, emergency services and waste disposal, it was composed of 106 directly elected members drawn from the ten metropolitan boroughs of Greater Manchester. The Greater Manchester County Council shared power with ten lower-tier district councils, each of which directed local matters.[1] It was also known as the Greater Manchester Council (GMC) and the Greater Manchester Metropolitan County Council (GMMCC).[2]

Established with reference to the Local Government Act 1972, elections in 1973 brought about the county council's launch as a shadow authority, several months before Greater Manchester (its zone of influence) was officially created on 1 April 1974. The Greater Manchester County Council operated from its County Hall headquarters on Portland Street in central Manchester, until it was abolished 31 March 1986, following the Local Government Act 1985. Its powers were passed to the ten district councils of Greater Manchester, which had shared power with the GMCC. Some powers of the county council were restored when the district councils delegated strategic responsibilities (such as emergency services and public transport) to the county-wide Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and joint boards.


Further information: History of local government in England


Further information: Local Government Act 1972

The Local Government Act 1972 reformed local government in England by creating a system of two-tier metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties and districts throughout the country.[3] The act formally established Greater Manchester as a metropolitan county on 1 April 1974. The first election for the Greater Manchester County Council (GMCC) was held in 1973, operating as a shadow authority alongside the old councils until it formally assumed its powers on 1 April 1974.[4] The leading article in The Times on the day the Local Government Act came into effect noted that the "new arrangement is a compromise which seeks to reconcile familiar geography which commands a certain amount of affection and loyalty, with the scale of operations on which modern planning methods can work effectively".[5]

Operational history

Map of the region administered by Greater Manchester County Council, showing 10 metropolitan districts and the former pre-1972 urban districts
Werneth Low was one of several rural areas which became a country park under the governance of the Greater Manchester County Council.[6]
The G-Mex centre, established by the GMC in 1986

By January 1974, a joint working party representing Greater Manchester had drawn up its county Structure Plan, ready for implementation by the Greater Manchester County Council. The plan set out strategic and long-term objectives for the forthcoming metropolitan county.[7] The highest priority was to increase the quality of life for its inhabitants by way of improving the county's physical environment and cultural facilities which had suffered following deindustrialisation—much of Greater Manchester's basic infrastructure dated from its 19th-century industrial growth, and was unsuited to modern communication systems and life-styles.[8] Other objectives were to reverse the trend of depopulation in central-Greater Manchester, to invest in the county's country parks to improve the region's poor reputation on leisure and recreational facilities, and to improve the county's transport infrastructure and journey to work patterns.[9]

The council built County Hall on Portland Street in Manchester city centre at the cost of £4.5 million (£47,680,000 as of 2024),[10] which served as its headquarters.[1][11] The building is now known as Westminster House.[12]

Because of political objection, particularly from Cheshire, Greater Manchester covered only the inner, urban 62 of the 90 former districts that the Royal Commission had outlined as an effective administrative metropolitan area.[13] In this capacity, GMCC found itself "planning for an arbitrary metropolitan area ... abruptly truncated to the south", and so had to negotiate several land-use, transport and housing projects with its neighbouring county councils.[13] However a "major programme of environmental action" by GMCC broadly succeeded in reversing social deprivation in its inner city slums.[13] Leisure and recreational successes included the Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre (better known as the G-Mex centre and now branded Manchester Central), a converted former railway station in Manchester city centre used for cultural events,[14] and GMCC's creation of five new country parks within its boundaries.[15] Greater Manchester Transport was established from the former SELNEC PTE to operate the county's public transport.[16]

GMCC was, however, criticised for being too Manchester-centric by representatives from the outer suburbs.[17]


Further information: Local Government Act 1985

A decade after they were established, the mostly Labour-controlled metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council (GLC) had several high-profile clashes with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, with regard to overspending and high rates charging. Government policy on the issue was considered throughout 1982, and the Conservative Party put a "promise to scrap the metropolitan county councils" and the GLC, in their manifesto for the 1983 general election.[18][19] Greater Manchester County Council was abolished on 31 March 1986 under the Local Government Act 1985. That the metropolitan county councils were controlled by the Labour Party led to accusations that their abolition was motivated by party politics:[18] the general secretary of the National Association of Local Government Officers described it as a "completely cynical manoeuvre".[20] Most of the functions of GMCC were devolved to the ten Greater Manchester metropolitan district councils, though some functions such as emergency services and public transport were taken over by joint boards and continued to be run on a county-wide basis.[21] The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) was established to continue much of the county-wide services of the county council.[22] The metropolitan county continued to exist in law, and as a geographic frame of reference,[23] for example as a NUTS 2 administrative division for statistical purposes within the European Union.[24]


Although the metropolitan county council was abolished in 1986, the county area continues to exist, for Parliamentary representation, in mapping, and especially for statistical purposes.[23] The county continues to exist today as both a legal and geographic entity,[23] and has its own Lord Lieutenant (the Monarch's representative in a county) and High Sheriff.

The last leader of Greater Manchester County Council, Bernard Clarke, became the manager of the YMCA's Training for Life project and a director of Manchester Travel Services and of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.[25] The county council's last Chief executive, Tony Harrison, a solicitor, remained Clerk to the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester after abolition and became a director of various companies. In February 1992, wrongly believing he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, 61-year-old Harrison committed suicide.[25]

In March 2010, following the active pursuit of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, it was agreed by the government of the United Kingdom and the ten district councils of Greater Manchester that there should be a return to a statutory, two-tiered system of local governance for Greater Manchester. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority was agreed upon to strategically govern Greater Manchester from 1 April 2011. It consists of eleven members: ten indirectly elected members, each a directly elected councillor from one of the ten metropolitan boroughs that comprise Greater Manchester and elected Mayor of Greater Manchester who chairs the Authority. The authority will derive most of its powers from the Local Government Act 2000 and Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.[26]

Powers and composition

The Greater Manchester County Council was a strategic authority running regional services such as public transport, health provision, planning and emergency services. It served to provide a strategic regional framework within which the differing plans of its ten metropolitan borough councils could be harmonised.[1]

Bernard Clarke served as leader of the GMCC.[27]


County Hall, Manchester

The county council had its main administrative offices at County Hall, an office building at 11 Portland Street in Manchester, built in 1974. Council meetings were held at Manchester Town Hall.[25] After the council's abolition, County Hall was sold to Parc Securities in 1988 for an undisclosed sum, believed to be between £5 and £6 million, and refurbished for offices. County Hall Properties bought the structure from Parc two years later and renamed it Westminster House, alluding to the government that abolished the Greater Manchester County Council; the managing director of County Hall (Manchester) Management, the former GMCC economic development chief and former Parc consultant Leslie Boardman, declined to disclose the purchase price in 1992, but press reports put it at about £22 million.[25] The seven-storey building became used by the Halifax and Chelsea building societies, the AGF and Scottish Amicable insurance companies, and the German consulate.[25]

Political control

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority before coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council from 1974 until its abolition in 1986 was held by the following parties:

Party in control Years
Labour 1974–1977
Conservative 1977–1981
Labour 1981–1986


The leaders of the council were:

Councillor Party From To
Robert Thomas[28] Labour 1 Apr 1974 May 1977
Arnold Fieldhouse[29][30] Conservative May 1977 May 1981
Bernard Clarke[31][32] Labour May 1981 31 Mar 1986

Council elections

Elections were held to the Greater Manchester County Council three times, in 1973, 1977, and 1981.

Year Conservative Labour Liberal Independent
1973[33] 23 69 13 1
1977[34] 82 23 0 1
1981[35] 19 78 9 0

Elections were due to be held in 1985 but these were cancelled due to the council's impending abolition. Those councillors elected in 1981 had their terms of office extended until the council's abolition on 31 March 1986.[36]

Coat of arms

See also: Coat of arms of Greater Manchester and List of English counties' coats of arms

The coat of arms granted by the College of Arms to the Greater Manchester Council are described as:[37]

Shield: The shield bears ten turrets in gold, representing the ten districts of the County, on a red ground.

Supporters: The shield is supported on each side by a lion rampant in gold. Each lion bears on its shoulder a badge in red, the lion on the right of the shield bearing a badge with a French horn, representing music and culture, and the lion on the left of the shield bearing a badge with an open book, representing learning and academic life of the County.

Crest: The helm is surmounted by a demi-lion carrying a banner bearing ten small turrets in gold on a red ground.

Motto: Ever Vigilant.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council. Metropolitan Rochdale Official Guide. London: Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Limited. p. 65.
  2. ^ Hellewell & Reeve 2013, p. 5
  3. ^ Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. "Local Government Finance Statistics England No.16". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 5 July 2007. Retrieved on 21 February 2008.
  4. ^ "British Local Election Database, 1889–2003". AHDS – Arts and Humanities data service. 28 June 2006. retrieved on 5 March 2008.
  5. ^ "All change in local affairs". The Times. 1 April 1974.
  6. ^ "Werneth Low Country Park: Country Park Rangers' Annual Review 2008/2009". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 7 December 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  7. ^ Frangopulo (1977), p. 246.
  8. ^ Bristow & Cross 1983, p. 30.
  9. ^ Frangopulo (1977), pp. 246–255.
  10. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  11. ^ "Greater Manchester". The Times. 7 November 1975.
  12. ^ "Westminster House - Portland Street". Manchester History. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Wannop 2002, pp. 144–145.
  14. ^ Parkinson-Bailey (2000), pp. 214–5.
  15. ^ Taylor, Evans & Fraser 1996, p. 76.
  16. ^ Williams, Paul (15 September 2016). Manchester Buses. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-4456-5315-0. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  17. ^ Clapson 2010, pp. 123–124.
  18. ^ a b Wilson & Game 2002, p. 61.
  19. ^ Walker, David (15 January 1983). "Tory plan to abolish GLC and metropolitan councils, but rates stay". The Times.
    Haviland, Julian (5 May 1983). "Tories may abolish county councils if they win election". The Times.
    Tendler, Stewart (16 June 1983). "Big cities defiant over police". The Times.
  20. ^ "Angry reaction to councils White Paper". The Times. 8 October 1983.
  21. ^ Wilson & Game 2002, p. 62.
  22. ^ Association of Greater Manchester Authorities. "About AGMA". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved on 5 March 2008.
  23. ^ a b c Office for National Statistics. "Gazetteer of the old and new geographies of the United Kingdom" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. p. 48. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
    Office for National Statistics (17 September 2004). "Beginners' Guide to UK Geography: Metropolitan Counties and Districts". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
    Boundary Commission. "North West England Counties". Retrieved 6 March 2008.
  24. ^ BISER Europe Regions Domain Reporting (2003). "Regional Portrait of Greater Manchester – 5.1 Spatial Structure" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2006. Retrieved on 17 February 2007.
  25. ^ a b c d e Evans, Andrew (13 August 1992). "Public Service Management: End of the metropolitan line: County councils face an uncertain future. Andrew Evans recalls how the Government abolished local authorities serving 18 million people". The Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  26. ^ Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (March 2010). "Greater Manchester Combined Authority Final Scheme" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  27. ^ "Politicians in Focus". Stockport Express. M.E.N. Media. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  28. ^ Warman, Christopher (2 September 1980). "Role of councillor 'threatened'". The Times. London. p. 2.
  29. ^ "Conservatives capture GLC in councils landslide". The Times. London. 6 May 1977. p. 1.
  30. ^ "County poll line up". The Advertiser. Stockport. 2 April 1981. p. 65. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  31. ^ "Lab/Lib gains in county poll". The Advertiser. Stockport. 14 May 1981. p. 8. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  32. ^ "Centre for the region underway". The Chronicle. Chester. 14 March 1986. p. 20. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  33. ^ "Composition of the councils: GREATER MANCHESTER." The Guardian (1959–2003) 14 April 1973, ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Guardian and The Observer (1791–2003), ProQuest. Web. 5 April 2010.
  34. ^ "Conservatives triumphant in Greater London and Metropolitan counties". The Times. London. 6 May 1977. p. 4.
  35. ^ "GLC results in full: big Labour gains in the counties". The Times. London. 8 May 1981. p. 4.
  36. ^ Local Government (Interim Provisions) Act 1984, s. 2.
  37. ^ Frangopulo (1977), preface.


  • Bristow, M. Roger; Cross, Donald T. (1983). English Structure Planning: A Commentary on Procedure and Practice in the Seventies. Routledge. ISBN 0-85086-094-6.
  • Clapson, Mark (2010). Ray Hutchison (ed.). Suburbanization in Global Society. Emerald Group. ISBN 978-0-85724-347-8.
  • Frangopulo, Nicholas Joseph (1977). Tradition in action : the historical evolution of the Greater Manchester County. Wakefield: EP Publishing. ISBN 0-7158-1203-3.
  • Hellewell, Scott; Reeve, Colin (2013). Metrolink: Oldham to Chorlton including the Oldham Loop Line. Venture. ISBN 978-1-905304-53-0.
  • Parkinson-Bailey, John J (2000). Manchester: an Architectural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-5606-3.
  • Taylor, Ian; Evans, Karen; Fraser, Penny (1996). A Tale of Two Cities: Global Change, Local Feeling, and Everyday Life in the North of England: a Study in Manchester and Sheffield. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-13828-4.
  • Wannop, Urlan (2002). Regional Imperative: Regional Planning and Governance in Britain, Europe and the United States. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-11-702368-0.
  • Wilson, David; Game, Chris (2002). Local Government in the United Kingdom (3rd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 978-0-333-94859-0.