Wards and electoral divisions of the United Kingdom

Electoral areas
Category Electoral district
Location United Kingdom
Created by Statutory instrument
Possible types Wards
Electoral divisions
Electoral wards

The wards and electoral divisions in the United Kingdom are electoral districts at sub-national level represented by one or more councillors. The ward is the primary unit of English electoral geography for civil parishes and borough and district councils, electoral ward is the unit used by Welsh principal councils, while the electoral division is the unit used by English county councils and some unitary authorities. Each ward/division has an average electorate of about 5,500 but ward-population counts can vary substantially.[1] As at the end of 2014 there were 9,456 electoral wards/divisions in the UK.[2]


The London boroughs, the metropolitan boroughs and the non-metropolitan districts (including most unitary authorities) are divided into wards for local elections. However, county council elections (as well as those for several unitary councils which were formerly county councils, such as the Isle of Wight Council and Shropshire Council) instead use the term electoral division. In shire county areas with both wards (used for district council elections) and electoral divisions (used for county council elections), the boundaries of the two types of divisions may sometimes not coincide, but more often the county electoral divisions will be made up of one or more complete wards.

In urban areas the wards within a local authority area typically each contain roughly the same number of electors, and each elect three councillors. In local authorities with mixed urban and rural areas the number of councillors may vary from one to three depending on the size of the electorate. Where civil parishes exist, a ward can be coterminous with a civil parish or consist of groups of civil parishes. Larger civil parishes (such as Shrewsbury) can be divided into two or more wards.

City of London

The City of London has its own sui generis form of local government, and is divided into wards, which are ancient and very long-standing sub-divisions of the City.

Isles of Scilly

The Council of the Isles of Scilly, is also a sui generis unitary authority, has five wards, each returning either 2 or (in the case of St Mary's) 13 councillors to the Council of the Isles of Scilly.[3]

Civil parishes

Civil parishes in England are sometimes divided into wards for elections to the parish council (or town/city council). They need not bear any relation to wards or electoral divisions at district level.

Historic use

The four most northerly ancient counties of England Cumberland, Westmorland, County Durham and Northumberland – were historically divided into administrative units called wards instead of hundreds or wapentakes, as in other counties. Wards were areas originally organised for military purposes, each centred on a castle.[4]


In Wales the term electoral ward[5] is used for elections to principal councils (county council or county borough council).[6] This change replaced the term electoral division.

Communities in Wales (the equivalent to the civil parish in England) are sometimes divided into wards for elections to the community council.


All of Scotland is divided into wards for local government elections; each ward elects three or four councillors by Single Transferable Vote.

See also: Local government in Scotland, Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland.

Northern Ireland

Districts in Northern Ireland are divided into electoral areas,[7] with each electing between five and seven councillors by Single Transferable Vote. These are themselves sub-divided into wards, but these wards have no official function.


  1. ONS Electoral wards/divisions (www.ons.gov.uk) Retrieved 15 June 2014
  2. ONS Electoral wards/divisions (www.ons.gov.uk) Retrieved 16 May 2015
  3. Council of the Isles of Scilly Elections
  4. W. L. Warren, The Myth of Norman Administrative Efficiency: The Prothero Lecture in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., Vol. 34. (1984), p. 125
  5. "Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 Section 29". The National Archives. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  6. "Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 Section 72". The National Archives. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  7. "Administrative Boundary Maps". Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
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