In England and Wales, charter trustees are set up to maintain the continuity of a town charter or city charter after a district with the status of a borough or city has been abolished, until such time as a parish council is established. Duties are limited to ceremonial activities such as the election of a mayor, and various other functions depending upon local customs and laws.
The charter trustees are made up of local councillors in the district representing wards within the boundaries of the town/city. In the event that there are fewer than three district councillors for the former borough, qualified local electors may be co-opted to make the number up to three.
Charter trustees must hold an annual meeting within twenty-one days of the annual meeting of the district council. The first item of business is the election of a town or city mayor and deputy mayor for the next year. The charter trustees of Lowestoft failed to nominate any candidate for the office of town mayor for several years until a change of political control in 2003, the trustees being effectively in abeyance. The charter trustees of Worksop are also effectively in abeyance, having not elected a town mayor for over 30 years.
The original bodies of charter trustees were set up in 1974, under section 246 of the Local Government Act 1972. The concept was introduced into the Bill by a government amendment in September 1972.
Section 245(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 allowed the 'shadow' district councils to make a petition to the Queen for borough status, before their coming into effect on 1 April 1974. In this case, if "it is signified on behalf of Her Majesty before that date that She proposes to accede" to the request then, the style of borough could be used immediately from 1 April 1974, despite the fact that the charter would be presented only later.
For the new districts which made no such petition (or where it was refused), for each former municipal borough in the district, which was not to become a successor parish, a body corporate styled the charter trustees of the town or city, were established, under section 246(4) of the Act.
In the original legislation, charter trustees could also be formed in Welsh Districts, but the Charter Trustees Order 1974, which provided for the establishment of the trustees, stated that the section "shall not apply to the area consisting of the counties established by section 20 of the Act (new local government areas in Wales)", and "there will be no charter trustees in Wales."
Originally, under section 246(7), when the district in which a town for which charter trustees had been established gained the status of a borough, the trustees would be immediately dissolved. Some new district councils petitioned for borough status soon after 1 April 1974, quickly dissolving the charter trustees.
This was changed by the Charter Trustees Act 1985, which provided that charter trustees would cease to exist only when a parish council was formed for the area of the former borough.
Legislation passed in 1992 led to the establishment of Local Government Commission whose remit was to review the system created in 1974. As a result there was a partial reorganisation, with a number of districts with borough or city status being abolished. The mechanism of creating charter trustees to preserve civic traditions was again used. However, trustees were created only where an outgoing council requested their establishment. The failure of the extinguished City of Rochester-upon-Medway council to appoint charter trustees for Rochester or to apply for Rochester's city status to be transferred to the replacement unitary authority of Medway led to Rochester losing its city status.
Some abolished boroughs such as Beverley included a large rural area. In such cases, the charter trustees were not established for the entire area of the former borough, but were limited to that part of the new authority which was unparished: the area identifiable as the town.
A further wave of reorganisations came into effect in some areas of England on 1 April 2009, under the terms of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. The reforms saw the creation of new unitary authorities and the abolition of a number of districts with city or borough status. The Charter Trustees Regulations 2009 allow for the creation of trustees to preserve civic traditions in those areas where there is no obvious successor parish council. In the case of the cities of Chester and Durham the charter trustees area are identical to the entire abolished district, which includes not only the central unparished area but also the surrounding parishes.
|Former municipal borough||Successor district||County in 1974||Website||Created||Parished/abolished|
|Andover||Test Valley District||Hampshire||1974||abolished 1976, successor the Borough of Test Valley|
|Aylesbury||Aylesbury Vale||Buckinghamshire||||1974||parished 2000|
|Basingstoke||Basingstoke District||Hampshire||1974||abolished 1978, successor the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane|
|City of Bath||Bath and North East Somerset||Avon||||1996||extant|
|Bedford||Bedford District||Bedfordshire||1974||abolished 1975, successor the Borough of North Bedfordshire|
|Beverley||East Riding of Yorkshire||Humberside||||1996||parished 1999|
|Bootle||Sefton||Merseyside||1974||abolished c. 1975, successor the Borough of Sefton|
|Burton upon Trent||East Staffordshire||Staffordshire||1974||abolished 1992 when East Staffordshire became a borough 
unparished area became various parishes in 2003
|Chelmsford||Chelmsford District||Essex||1974||abolished, 1975, successor the Borough of Chelmsford|
|City of Chester||Cheshire West and Chester||Cheshire||2009||extant|
|Chippenham||North Wiltshire||Wiltshire||||1974||parished 1984|
|Cleethorpes||Cleethorpes District||Humberside||1974||Abolished 1975, successor the Borough of Cleethorpes|
|Cleethorpes||North East Lincolnshire||Humberside||1996||extant|
|Colne||Pendle district||Lancashire||1974||Abolished 1976, successor the Borough of Pendle|
|Crewe||Cheshire East||Cheshire||2009||parished 2013|
|Crosby||Sefton||Merseyside||1974||abolished c. 1975, successor the Borough of Sefton|
|Dartford||Dartford district||Kent||1974||Abolished 1977, successor the Borough of Dartford|
|Daventry||Daventry district||Northamptonshire||||1974||parished 2003|
|Deal||Dover district||Kent||||1974||parished 1996|
|Dover||Dover district||Kent||1974||parished 1996|
|Dunstable||South Bedfordshire||Bedfordshire||||1974||parished 1985|
|City of Durham and Framwelgate||County Durham||2009||extant|
|Ellesmere Port||Cheshire West and Chester||Cheshire||2009||extant|
|Goole||Boothferry||Humberside||1974||Abolished 1978, successor the Borough of Boothferry|
|Great Grimsby||North East Lincolnshire||Humberside||1996||extant|
|Hemel Hempstead||Dacorum District||Hertfordshire||1974||Abolished 1986, successor the Borough of Dacorum|
|City of Hereford||Herefordshire||Herefordshire||||1998||parished 2000|
|Ilkeston||Erewash||Derbyshire||1974||abolished 1975, successor the Borough of Erewash|
|Kidderminster||Wyre Forest||Worcestershire||1974||parished 2016|
|King's Lynn||West Norfolk district||Norfolk||1974||Abolished 1981, successor the Borough of King's Lynn and West Norfolk|
|City of Lichfield||Lichfield district||Staffordshire||||1974||parished 1980|
|Lymington||New Forest district||Hampshire||1974||parished (as four parishes) 1979|
|Macclesfield||Cheshire East||Cheshire||2009||parished 2015|
|Nelson||Pendle district||Lancashire||1974||Abolished 1976, successor the Borough of Pendle|
|Newark||Newark district||Nottinghamshire||||1974||parished 1980|
|Newbury||West Berkshire||Berkshire||||1974||parished 1997|
|Queenborough-in-Sheppey||Swale district||Kent||1974||parished 1976?|
|Royal Leamington Spa||Warwick district||Warwickshire||||1974||parished 2002|
|Royal Tunbridge Wells||Tunbridge Wells district||Kent||1974||Abolished 1974, successor the Borough of Tunbridge Wells|
|City of Salisbury (New Sarum)||Salisbury district||Wiltshire||||1974||parished 2009|
|Southport||Sefton||Merseyside||1974||abolished c. 1975, successor the Borough of Sefton|
|Taunton||Taunton Deane District||Somerset||1974||abolished 1975, successor the Borough of Taunton Deane|
|Weston-super-Mare||Woodspring (now North Somerset)||Avon||||1974||parished 2000|
|Yeovil||Yeovil district (now South Somerset)||Somerset||||1974||parished 1984|
The structural changes to local government in 2009 affected charter trustees. Trustees were formed in a number of new unitary authorities to preserve the mayoralty and civic traditions of abolished boroughs. At the same time, the charter trustees of Salisbury were dissolved on the parishing of the area.
|New Authority||Boroughs or cities abolished||Charter trustees formed|
|Cheshire East||Borough of Congleton||Borough is completely parished. Charters and civic property likely to pass to Congleton Town Council.|
|Borough of Crewe and Nantwich||Charter Trustees for Crewe.|
(The ward of Crewe East and the unparished parts of the wards of Crewe West, Crewe North, and Crewe South.)
|Borough of Macclesfield||Charter Trustees for Macclesfield.|
(Wards of Broken Cross, Macclesfield Town, Macclesfield West, and the unparished parts of the wards of Macclesfield Forest, and Prestbury and Tytherington).
|Cheshire West and Chester||City of Chester||Charter Trustees for the City of Chester, with lord mayoralty preserved.|
(area identical to abolished City of Chester District)
|Borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston||Charter Trustees for Ellesmere Port formed as a temporary measure before creation of town council.|
|Borough of Vale Royal||Borough is entirely parished.|
|Cornwall||Borough of Restormel||No action was taken, and borough status ceased on 31 March 2009|
|County Durham||City of Durham||Charter trustees for the City of Durham |
(area identical to abolished City of Durham local government district)
|Borough of Sedgefield||Privileges and rights relating to the borough charter transferred to Sedgefield Town Council.|
|Northumberland||Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed||Civic functions of the Mayoralty and Shrievalty and all associated regalia were transferred to Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council (created 1 April 2008).|
|Borough of Blyth Valley||Area divided into three parishes of Blyth, Cramlington and Seaton Valley.|
|Borough of Castle Morpeth||The borough is entirely parished.|
|Shropshire||Borough of Oswestry||The borough is entirely parished.|
|Borough of Shrewsbury and Atcham||Shrewsbury Town Council formed 1 April 2009|
|Wiltshire||Salisbury District||Existing charter trustees of the City of New Sarum will be dissolved with the creation of civil parish and Salisbury City Council in June 2009.|