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Wales is governed nationally by three legislatures:
- the European Parliament, in Brussels and Strasbourg
- the United Kingdom Parliament, in London
- the National Assembly for Wales, in Cardiff
a. Unitary Authorities
Local authorities are described by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 as "principal councils", and their areas as "principal areas" (which may be a county or a county borough).
Under the Act, each principal area is governed by a council for that area and which is allocated the respective English and Welsh descriptions of County Council or Cyngor Sir), each County Council formed for a County Borough is allocated the respective descriptions of County Borough Council or Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol); in all cases the shorter alternative forms Council or Cyngor) can be used. However, this ruling is not always adhered to!
County Councillors are elected for a term of four years. All persons aged 18 or over are eligible to stand for election and all persons aged 18 or over, and living in the county, are eligible to vote.
Wales is divided into 22 of these unitary authorities, 11 of which are defined as counties and 11 as county boroughs:
Each County Council is responsible for the provision of all local government services, including:
- social work
- environmental protection
- local highways
b. Community Councils
Under the Local Government Act 1972, the civil parish was abolished in favour of the community (Welsh: cymuned). The community is the lowest tier of government in Wales and is the only form of government below the Unitary Authority.
There are over 850 communities in Wales and every part of the country is within a community. Communities can differ widely in size and population. The majority of the communities have an elected community council, however, those communities too small to have a council will organise community meetings.
Community Councillors are elected for a term of four years. All persons over aged 18 or over are eligible to stand for election, and all persons aged 18 or over, and living in the community, are eligible to vote. The elections take place on the same day as the elections for the County Councils.
These Community Councils are responsible for specific aspects of local policy making.
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