The Royal Borough Charter

Reshaping the local government landscape

The Local Government Act 1972 (the Act) set up a new structure for local government. In Schedule 1 of the Act, established metropolitan counties and districts.

Greater Manchester County Council was divided into metropolitan districts and “district h” established the area which was to become Trafford from the boroughs of Altrincham and Sale; the urban districts of Bowdon and Hale; the rural district of Bucklow, the parishes of Carrington, Dunham Massey, Partington and Warburton; the borough of Stretford; and the urban district of Urmston.

Metropolitan districts

Metropolitan districts were originally parts of a two-tier structure of local government, and shared power with the metropolitan county councils (MCCs). In 1986, the metropolitan county councils were abolished under the Local Government Act 1985 and most of their functions were devolved to the metropolitan boroughs.

There are 36 metropolitan district councils carry out the majority of local government functions in large urban areas. For example, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. All ten Greater Manchester councils, including Trafford, are metropolitan district councils.

Royal Borough Charter

On 1 April 1974, Trafford received a Royal Borough Charter. It is currently displayed at Trafford Town Hall.

Borough status

Borough status is granted by royal charter to local government districts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The status is purely honorary, and does not give any additional powers to the council or inhabitants of the district.

Mechanics of borough status

Whilst most Royal Charters are granted under the Royal Prerogative, Borough Charters are granted under statutory powers. Section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides Her Majesty in Council with the power to confer Borough Status on petitioning District Councils through the grant of a Charter.

The Act provides that the District Council must resolve by not less than a two-thirds majority of those members voting in favour of a petition at a meeting of the council convened for the purpose before one can be presented.

Implications of borough status

The conferring of Borough Status is purely honorific. The District Council becomes a Borough Council and as a result the District Council Chairman and Deputy Chairman may style themselves Mayor and Deputy Mayor. The change in status has no impact on the functions or responsibilities of the local authority.

Borough status no longer implies a town or urban area. Outside Greater London, borough status is granted to metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts under the provisions of section 245 of the Local Government Act 1972. This section allows the council of a district to petition the monarch for a charter granting borough status. The resolution must have the support of at least two-thirds of the councillors.

Having received the petition the monarch may, on the advice of the Privy Council, grant a charter whereupon:

  • The district becomes a borough
  • The district council becomes the borough council
  • The chairman and vice-chairman become entitled to the style mayor and deputy mayor of the borough, except in councils that have an elected mayor under the Local Government Act 2000.

Clarification of Honors

So “borough” is an honorary title used by Trafford but doesn’t change the fact that it is a metropolitan district.