The many and various levels of geo areas, across the UK what they are and how they relate to each other.

Blog Post: UK Geographic Units

GU’s - let’s start this by using an acronym to make life just a little more complex!.


For a relatively small land, the UK isn’t half complicated when it comes to political or organisationally meaningful areas around the UK Government. Compounded by variations to approaches across the devolved nations. Having recently delivered a project that looked at and analysed a number of GU types and, of course, given our involvement with political data and lobbying, these are important both to us and our users across the general public, business and third sectors.

Aaaanyway, this prompted a post shining a bit of a light on different kinds of Geo areas that relate to Public Services and some of the considerations and variations around them.

Let’s start at the top and work down (ish):

Countries - I think we’re all pretty ok with these - generally anyway, see postcode areas below!

Regions - England only - these used to reflect government economic planning regions and are now determined by collections of District and County Council Areas.

Constituencies - currently 650 of these - cover the entire UK and for which folks vote in a single MP to represent them in Westminster.

Devolved Constituencies - in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - sometimes - but by no means always - the same areas as the main Constituencies. These areas are represented by Members of the devolved parliaments (SM, MSP, AM respectively) voted for by the public.

Regional Devolved Constituencies - also in Wales and Scotland - areas made up of multiple developed constituencies and having multiple representatives sitting on the devolved Parliaments.

District Council Areas - a helpful one this - currently 362 of these - UK wide areas representing the administrative area of Local Authorities/Councils - this includes Met, Unitary, Borough and District Councils - but no County Councils - see below for that.

Wards - sitting under and contiguous with District Council Areas - there are currently 8,440 of these - these small units are represented by Councillors who sit on the Local Authority, elected by the local population.

Parishes - helpfully also contiguous with the Districts above - currently 11,553 of these - not quite UK wide (some areas don’t have Parish Councils) these are the local areas represented/administered by Town or Parish Councils. These have multiple Councillors elected by parish residents who sit on the Parish Councils.

County Council Areas - we’ve moved up small level here - 21 of these - these occur where there are still a County Councils (in England only) and is therefore a two tiered structure in Local Government - County Council Areas are made up of linked District Council Areas.

Electoral Divisions - working very much like Wards under Districts, these are subdivisions of County Council Areas and are represented by Councillors who sit on the County Council, elected by the local population. Worth noting here that sometimes the same people sit on both District and County Councils and therefore represent both Wards and Electoral Divisions.

So that mops up the core of electoral and government administrative areas, but, of course, there's much more - including, but not limited to:

Police Force Areas - 45 of these, they typically follow chunks of District Areas, but there are, of course, some exceptions.

Health body areas - including the 42 ICS areas in England - these have varying levels of coverage and in the case of ICS’ mostly - there are exceptions! - have coterminous boundaries with District and County Councils - albeit, of course, multiple Council areas make up the ICS area.

Postcode Areas - the first alpha part of a postcode - eg ‘TQ’ - these are not directly connected with any of the other GUs mentioned. There are 123 across the UK. As referenced above, some of these cut across Regions and Countries.

Postcode Districts - the first half of a postcode - eg ‘TQ1’ as you might expect these are grouped into the Postcode Areas above and covers smaller GU chunks - there are currently 3095 in the UK.

Full Postcode - probably the most familiar geo unit - a small chunk of turf for each - somewhat based on population - there are currently 1,785,000 (a lot!) of these.

Beyond these are MANY other GUs - including National Parks and a chunk of useful areas used for various levels of analysis by, amongst others, OS and ONS.

So there you go, many GU’s for a small nation. If ever you fancy talking GU, do get in touch and we’re always happy to discuss things that might be helpful.


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