Local Government (Wales) Act 1994
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision with respect to local government in Wales.
Citation1994 c.19
Territorial extent England and Wales
Royal assent5 July 1994
Commencement1 April 1996
Other legislation
AmendsLocal Government Act 1972
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 (c. 19) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which amended the Local Government Act 1972 to create the current local government structure in Wales of 22 unitary authority areas, referred to as principal areas in the Act,[1] and abolished the previous two-tier structure of counties and districts. It came into effect on 1 April 1996.


In June 1991, the Secretary of State for Wales, David Hunt, published a consultation paper on reform of local government in Wales. The paper proposed the replacing of the existing two-tier system of administrative counties and districts, established by the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, with unitary authorities. The number and size of the unitary areas was not set down, instead three options were given for ten, twenty or twenty-four new councils. On 3 March 1992 the Secretary of State made a statement in the House of Commons, in which he stated that the number of proposed unitary authorities was to be twenty-three. He further stated:

My approach in identifying these 23 authorities has been as follows. First, I want to restore to the largest centres of population - Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and also to Wrexham - full control over their own affairs.

Secondly, in the rural areas I want to see local government based on the traditional counties, such as Pembrokeshire, Montgomeryshire, Cardiganshire and Anglesey and, of course, we recognise the position of Meirionnyddshire and Carmarthenshire. I shall consult further on whether to extend that approach to separate authorities for Radnorshire and Brecknock.

Thirdly in the south Wales valleys I want as far as possible to take account of the intense local loyalties that are such a feature of the area. Taking account of demographic and other factors, however, I also consider it necessary for some of the present district councils in the valleys to come together to form new unitary authorities.

The areas of the new councils were not precisely defined, although a map was issued at the time of the statement.[2]

The Conservatives held power at the general election held on 9 April 1992, and a white paper Local government in Wales: A Charter for the Future was published on St David's Day, 1 March 1993.[3] The number of unitary authorities had been reduced to twenty-one, with the deletion of separate authorities for Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire, and their areas and proposed names were given. speaking in the commons, David Hunt said:

In making these proposals I have sought to balance the demands of local community loyalty with the requirements of effective and efficient service delivery, taking account of demographic factors, population distribution, geography and other relevant considerations.

The fire service, previously administered by county councils, was to be organised as three combined authorities. Elections for the new councils was to be in 1994, initially acting as "shadow authorities" until 1 April 1995 when they would assume their responsibilities.[4]

Unitary authorities proposed by the 1993 white paper
Proposed Authority Existing council areas
Aberconwy and Colwyn Aberconwy, Colwyn districts
Anglesey Ynys Mon - Isle of Anglesey district
Bridgend Ogwr district less the communities of Coychurch, Ewenny, St Bride's Major, Wick
Caernarfon and Meirionnydd Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd districts, the communities of Cynwyd and Llandrillo from Glyndwr district
Caerphilly Islwyn district, Rhymney Valley district less Daren Valley, New Tredegar and Rhymney communities
Cardiff Cardiff district and the community of Pentyrch from Taff-Ely district
Cardiganshire Ceredigion district
Carmarthenshire Carmarthen, Dinefwr, Llanelli districts
Denbighshire Rhuddlan district, most of Glyndwr district, part of Delyn district
Flintshire Alyn and Deeside district, most of Delyn district
Glamorgan Valleys Cynon Valley and Rhondda districts and the district of Taff-Ely less Pentyrch community
Heads of the Valleys Merthyr Tydfil district, Blaenau Gwent district less Llanelly community, Daren Valley, New Tredegar and Rhymney communities from Rhymney Valley district
Mid Wales Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire districts, Brecknock district less Ystradgynlais and Tawe Uchaf communities, the community of Llanelly from Blaenau Gwent district.
Monmouthshire Monmouth district
Newport Newport district
Pembrokeshire Preseli Pembrokeshire and South Pembrokeshire districts
Swansea Lliw Valley and Swansea districts
Torfaen Torfaen district
Vale of Glamorgan Vale of Glamorgan district, the communities of Coychurch, Ewenny, St Bride's Major, Wick from Ogwr district
West Glamorgan Neath, Port Talbot districts, Ystradgynlais and Tawe Uchaf communities from Brecknock district
Wrexham Wrexham Maelor district

In May 1993, a cabinet reshuffle led to John Redwood replacing David Hunt as Welsh Secretary. In November 1993, the reorganisation was put back by a year to 1 April 1996 to allow more time for consultation.[5] The Glamorgan Valleys authority was to be renamed as Rhondda Cynon Taff, and a number of boundary changes were made. Following representations, the Heads of Valleys area was split into Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, each approximating to an existing district increasing the number of unitary authorities to twenty-two:

Following the debates in Parliament and in Wales generally, I have decided that there is a good case for a unitary Merthyr and a unitary Blaenau Gwent. Although I am reluctant to increase the number of authorities in the Bill, I understand the differences between Merthyr and its proposed partner in Blaenau Gwent. I understand Merthyr's long, proud history and its former status as a county borough. Its size, which is comparable to that of Cardiganshire and Anglesey, also works in its favour.[6]

The Local Government (Wales) Bill was introduced to the Commons in June 1994. The debate on the bill led to a number of opposition amendments which sought to increase the number of councils, with representations being made by Members of Parliament for the affected areas.[7] None of these amendments was successful and the Bill was passed by both houses and received the Royal Assent on 5 July 1994.[8]

The Act

The Act established, from 1 April 1996, twenty-two new unitary authority areas, to be known as 'counties' or 'county boroughs', and abolished the eight local government counties and 37 districts that had been formed in 1974. "Preserved counties", based on the previous local government counties as established in 1974, were created for the purposes of lieutenancy and shrievality.[citation needed]

The Act also gives the legal definition of the territory of Wales was defined by the combined area of Welsh counties under section 20 of Local Government Act 1972. The counties were reorganised by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 but the territorial definition of Wales remained unchanged.[9]

Each new unitary authority area was to have an elected council and be divided into electoral districts, each returning one councillor. The entire council of each area was to be elected every four years, with the first election in 1995.[citation needed]

Section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972 allowed local government districts to petition the Privy Council in order acquire borough status. As the 1994 Act abolished the districts in Wales it inserted a section 245A in the 1972 Act to allow the new unitary authority areas which did not have the status of a borough to acquire it. As the only unitary authority areas that are not already styled as 'boroughs' are styled as 'counties', this leads to the curious provision that a council can petition for its county to become a county borough.[citation needed]

The Secretary of State was empowered to direct a council to make a decentralisation scheme, with area committees being formed of all the councillors for a specified area. This provision has been used to create, for example, area committees for Brecknockshire, Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire in Powys, and the Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd in Gwynedd.[citation needed]

Schedule 1 listed the new counties and county boroughs:


English name Welsh name Area
Anglesey Sir Fôn The district of Ynys Môn – Isle of Anglesey.
Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire Sir Gaernarfon a Meirionnydd The districts of Arfon, Dwyfor, and Meirionnydd.
Cardiff Caerdydd The district of Cardiff, together with (from the district of Taff-Ely) the community of Pentyrch.
Cardiganshire Sir Aberteifi The district of Ceredigion.
Carmarthenshire Sir Gaerfyrddin The districts of Carmarthen, Llanelli and Dinefwr.
Denbighshire Sir Ddinbych The district of Rhuddlan, together with (from the district of Glyndwr) the communities of Aberwheeler, Cynwyd, Llandrillo, Henllan, Denbigh, Llandyrnog, Llangynhafal, Llanynys, Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch, Nantglyn, Cyffylliog, Ruthin, Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd, Llanferres, Clocaenog, Efenechtyd, Llandegla, Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, Llanarmon-yn-Iajl, Llanelidan, Derwen, Betws Gwerfil Goch, Gwyddelwern, Bryneglwys, Corwen, Llantysilio, Llangollen and Llangollen Rural with (from the district of Colwyn) the communities of Trefnant and Cefnmeiriadog.
Flintshire Sir y Fflint The districts of Alyn and Deeside and Delyn.
Monmouthshire Sir Fynwy The district of Monmouth together with (from the district of Blaenau Gwent) the community of Llanelly.
Pembrokeshire Sir Benfro The districts of Preseli Pembrokeshire and South Pembrokeshire, together with Caldey Island and St Margaret's Island.
Powys Powys The districts of Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Brecknock, together with (from the district of Glyndwr) the communities of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Llansilin and Llangedwyn.
Swansea Abertawe The district of Swansea, together with (from the district of Lliw Valley) the communities of Gowerton, Llwchwr, Gorseinon, Grovesend, Pontardulais, Mawr, Pont-Lliw, Penllergaer, Llangyfelach and Clydach.

Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire was subsequently renamed as Gwynedd and Cardiganshire was renamed Ceredigion by their respective councils.

County Boroughs

English name Welsh name Area
Aberconwy and Colwyn Aberconwy a Cholwyn The districts of Aberconwy and Colwyn, but excluding (from the district of Colwyn) the communities of Cefnmeiriadog and Trefnant.
Blaenau Gwent Blaenau Gwent The district of Blaenau Gwent (excluding the community of Llanelly).
Bridgend Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr The district of Ogwr, but excluding the communities of Wick, St Bride's Major and Ewenny.
Caerphilly Caerffili The districts of Islwyn and Rhymney Valley.
Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr Tudful The district of Merthyr Tydfil.
Neath and Port Talbot Castell-nedd a Phort Talbot The districts of Neath and Port Talbot, together with (from the district of Lliw Valley) the communities of Pontardawe, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Cwmllynfell, Ystalyfera and Cilybebyll.
Newport Casnewydd The district of Newport.
Rhondda, Cynon, Taf Rhondda, Cynon, Taf The districts of Rhondda, Cynon Valley, and Taff-Ely, but excluding (from the district of Taff-Ely) the community of Pentyrch.
Torfaen Tor-faen The district of Torfaen.
The Vale of Glamorgan Bro Morgannwg The district of Vale of Glamorgan, together with (from the district of Ogwr) the communities of Wick, St Bride's Major and Ewenny.
Wrexham Wrecsam The district of Wrexham Maelor, together with (from the district of Glyndŵr) the communities of Chirk, Glyntraian, Llansantffraid Glyn Ceiriog, and Ceiriog Ucha.

Aberconwy and Colwyn was subsequently renamed Conwy and Neath and Port Talbot was renamed as Neath Port Talbot by their respective councils.

See also


  1. ^ Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, s. 1
  2. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 3 Mar 1992
  3. ^ Welsh Office. Local Government in Wales: A Charter for the Future. HMSO. ISBN 9780101215527.
  4. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 1 Mar 1993
  5. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 22 Nov 1993
  6. ^ House of commons Hansard Debates for 15 March 1994
  7. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 15 June 1994
  8. ^ London Gazette, issue no. 53730, 11 July 1994
  9. ^ (PDF). 20 April 2016 https://web.archive.org/web/20160420062743/http://www.assembly.wales/Research%20Documents/The%20Constitution%20Wales%20in%20the%20United%20Kingdom%20-%20Quick%20guide-22072011-217207/qg07-0001-English.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2023. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)