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London, Houses of Parliament (bigfoto.com)

Much of the website is concerned with government.  For example :

So we've created this page to provide a brief introduction to government for anyone not familiar with it.

The government's GOV.UK   website gives links to all government organisations, both central and local.  It acts as a 'portal' - in other words it's a stepping-stone to various sites (a sort of directory).  We strongly recommend it.`

Government - one of three sectors

Government is one of three sectors :

  1. the public sector   = government
  2. the private sector = for-profit organisations - eg companies
  3. the third sector     = not-for-profit organisations - eg charities.

See the 'sectors' section of the Definitions page for more on this.

Union Jack flag

Government - variations across the UK

This page applies only to England.

In the rest of the UK there are some differences - eg :

See the Variations across the UK page.

Levels of government

In essence, there are two levels of government :

Note - Regional government:  This is a third level, sandwiched between central and local government.  However, regional government is small, has limited powers and has no impact on the subjects dealt with on the website.

Below we take a closer look at central and local government.

Central government

Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government) - courtesy of Wikipedia - Crown copyright
Royal coat of arms
of the UK

This consists of :

In addition to the 'Whitehall' departments (which we refer to as 'core government'), there are numerous government agencies (QUANGOs) - these are answerable to government departments, but independent to varying degrees.  For example :

See the section on QUANGOs below for more on these agencies.

Local government

Local government consists of two to three tiers (ie levels), typically :

  1. County councils  =the top/uppermost tier
  2. District, borough and city councils  =the middle tier
  3. Town councils and parish councils  =the bottom/lowest tier.

Three-tier areas xStatistics: - Just under 50% of England has all three of these tiers.  Typically there's about five district councils within a county.  District and borough councils are more or less the same type of organisation.

Two-tier areas - An increasing number of areas have only two tiers.  With these, instead of county and district/borough councils, they have one upper-tier council, known as a 'unitary authority'.

London comprises :

The people working in local government consist of :

Local government includes the following regulators (relevant to clothing collections) :

See the Regulators page for details.

Town councils and parish councils - These form the lowest tier of local government.  These councils have relatively few powers, and none of these affect the issues on the website.

Privatisation and nationalisation

Privatisation - Over the years, some government organisations have been privatised (sold off), so they become part of the private sector.  Examples:  coal and steel production, railways, water authorities, gas, electricity, telephones, the Stationery Office.

Nationalisation - Conversely, some organisations in the private sector have been taken into government ownership (ie nationalised).  Examples:  Railtrack, Northern Rock Bank.

QUANGOs, NDPBs and executive agencies

Alas, the 'world' of QUANGOs is complicated (and controversial).

QUANGOs mushroomed from the 1960s onwards.  There are now thousands of them in the UK - for example the BBC, the Charity Commission and the Arts Council.  See Wikipedia  for further explanation.

Usually QUANGOs are wholly 'owned' and financed by government (normally central government).  However,  they have a degree of independence in terms of their day-to-day operations (hence the use of the term 'arm's length').

Typically a QUANGO is answerable to a specific government department.  Example :

'Non-QUANGOs' - We use this term to mean not-for-profit organisations which are not QUANGOs or core government.  In other words, these organisations are wholly independent of government.

The non-QUANGO category includes :

Sometimes it can be difficult initially to tell whether an organisation is a QUANGO or not.

Identifying QUANGOs, non-QUANGOs and commerce :

However, there are many exceptions to these rules of thumb.

Bear in mind that only government organisations (ie core government and QUANGOs) are :

Government :
Related pages and Useful links

1. Central government

2. Local government

3. Local government - individual councils

4. Government - ombudsmen