What’s the difference between Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council?

It’s one of the most common refrains heard in comments thread on social media and down the pub – ‘bloody council’ – but which council do you mean?

There’s a common confusion about what Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council are responsible, or not responsible for.

Many will say they are both as bad as each other but it’s important to know what their jurisdiction is and ensure you’re complaining to the right place.

Preston has a two-tier local authority, well technically three in some places, with parish councils being the base level of democratic action – such as Grimsargh Parish Council or Broughton for example.

What is Preston City Council?

It represents the urban area of the city of Preston, with the River Ribble being the boundary with South Ribble in the south and east, Fylde borders us on the west down Blackpool Road and the northern edge stretches up to border with the Wyre and Ribble Valley. Preston is classed as a district council. It was previously Preston Borough Council but was renamed when Preston received city status in 2002.

What does it do with my council tax?

The city council takes a percentage of the council tax payment and it is also the body responsible for collecting it, even thought it doesn’t receive all of the money. If you don’t pay your council tax it is the city council who come after you, on behalf of the other bodies. A small percentage of council tax goes to the fire service and also to the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Which services does the city council have responsibility for?

Bins is the primary one to think of, anything to do with picking up waste from your house is the city council’s responsibility – be that recycling or waste.

Planning decisions and licensing decisions rest with the city council, so if you were to make modifications to your house then you may need a planning application and it is the city council you would contact. A new pub or shop asking to sell alcohol also sits with the city council.

They run the leisure centres (until 1 May), and other services like the Guild Hall, but these have been transferred into third party hands.

Keeping the streets clean is a city council responsibility as is picking up litter and dog poo.

The city council also looks after environmental health, which is pest control, stray dogs and food hygiene. So when you see a food hygiene rating on a door that’s the council inspectors.

Preston City Council also operates the crematorium and is responsible for the cemetery, along with other services such as football pitches and the city’s award-winning parks.

The city council is also responsible for the economic regeneration of the city, but this is increasingly a responsibility shared with a number of other bodies such as the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

Elections, local, regional and general are also facilitated by the city council.

Who controls it?

There is an elected group of councillors who are elected in thirds, so there’s an election three out of four years for the city council. A political party – currently the Labour group – will hold a majority and they make up the cabinet which can make executive decisions about the future of the city and how the city council should move forward. There is a leader of the council which is chosen from whichever party holds a majority. The most senior staff position, so unelected role, is the chief executive.

What is Lancashire County Council?

The authority which represents the county area of Lancashire – although this doesn’t include Blackpool or Blackburn as they have chosen to be unitary authorities. Preston is not a unitary authority, so this means a number of services are provided by the county council to residents in the city. A unitary authority is where a council provides all services to its residents.

What does it do with my council tax?

The county council receives the greatest share of the council tax bill, and there’s a good reason for that.

What services does the county council have responsibility for?

The big ones, education, public health and social care, transport and highways, they all come down to the county council.

Moaning about potholes? It’s the county council you need to call for it to be filled in. And if you see roadworks, it is LCC who carry these out or co-ordinate them with utility companies.

If your child is in a state school it is an LCC education they are getting, employs the teachers, supports the schools and has responsibility for all the buildings.

Health and social care is the single-biggest cost to the county council, with the county council spending £300 million each year on residential care and providing care for people in their own homes.

They also are also responsible for protecting children and young people, providing adoption and fostering services.

The county council also provides libraries and facilities such as children’s’ centres and museums across the county, although a number of these have closed in recent months.

If you have a child, get married or someone in your family dies, it is the county council you have to tell through one of a network of register offices.

The county council supports business and ensures that they stay on the straight and narrow through its Trading Standards Service.

The county council also operate tips, or recycling centres, across the county including in Preston.

Who controls it?

Councillors are elected to serve four-year terms on the county council. Each area of Lancashire is made up of different wards e.g. Preston Central South and a councillor is elected for each of these. A largest political group will then normally form an administration and make decisions about the direction of the council – at present this is the Labour group. From this group of councillors a cabinet will be formed, and one of these councillors will be the leader of the council. The most senior staff position is the chief executive.

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