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 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.