This is to correct the outdated and somewhat misleading impression of the British political system that Webster 1913 gives. Firstly, the British parliament, the house of commons is a directly elected national government, comprising representatives of 659 constituencies of equal population size.
For local government, there is a different structure for the cities, and for the rural areas. In rural parts, there is a County council, a district council, and for sizeable towns, a town council (headed by a mayor).
The urban system is different. The major cities are divided into a number of borough councils, each headed by a mayor.
In some cases, there is an overall metropolitan authority above the boroughs.
In all cases of local government, the councils are divided by head of population into a number of wards, each providing a number of elected councillors.
Up until 1973,
there was some accuracy in the Webster definition, in that the English counties were administrated by borough councils. These were the same as the geographic regions used by the post office addressing scheme.
In 1973 the Edward Heath (Conservative) government introduced sweeping changes to the way that local government was run, replacting the county borough councils with county administrative authorities. This was also the time when the major cities were given their own administrative authority: Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, Avon, etc.
The situation in London was different, as borough councils had existed from 1889.1 The Greater London Council was formed in 1965, fusing the councils of London and Middlesex under the Harold Wilson (labour) government. Many of the smaller London and Middlesex town boroughs were combined into the 33 larger boroughs that we see today.
The Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher abolished most of the metropolitan authorities in the 1980s. The most famous of these was the Greater London Council (GLC), whose leader was Ken Livingstone (Labour).
The consequence of this abolition was that responsibility for all the municipal services fell to the boroughs. This caused a very inconsistent picture to emerge across London as a whole, owing to the differences in politics and financing between boroughs. This is still the case. On a borough boundary, there is often a marked difference between the appearance of respectability of one side of a street and the other.
The Tony Blair New Labour government has reintroduced an authority for London in the form of the Greater London Authority (GLA), headed by a mayor. Elections for this
body were held in 1999, and, much to the chagrin of the Labour party, Ken Livingstone was elected mayor, standing as an independent candidate. The GLA does not have responsibility for municipal services, this rests with the boroughs. Instead, it is a body for London wide initiatives, infrastructure, and planning.
Borough councils have responsibility for:
See also: http://www.capital-residence.co.uk/information/london-map.html
1Many thanks go to Gritchka for help with the research for this writeup.
Borough is also a place in London, just south of the river Thames in the borough of Southwark. It has a Borough tube station, and is quite close to London Bridge main line station.
Borough has an excellent produce market, specialising in organic food and unusual meats. They also have stalls with barbecues - I sit and node this having been to Borough market and had a Venison steak for lunch. Yum :)
See also: http://london.openguides.org/?Borough_Market