The effect is that the corresponding ceremonial county is larger than the non-metropolitan county of the same name and the county council is responsible for providing services in only part of the county.

In Cornwall, Durham, East Riding of Yorkshire, Shropshire and Wiltshire the bulk of the area is a unitary authority which shares the name of the ceremonial county and the rest of county is part of one or more other unitary authorities.

Some counties are grouped together for this purpose, such as Northumberland with Tyne and Wear to form the Northumbria Police area.

Most ceremonial counties correspond to a metropolitan or non-metropolitan county of the same name but often with reduced boundaries.

The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform.

From 1889 to 1974 areas with county councils were known as administrative counties, which excluded larger towns and cities known as county boroughs and included divisions of some geographic counties.

corresponded directly with the ceremonial counties. Counties, usually either historic counties or current ceremonial counties, are used as the geographical basis for a number of institutions such as police and fire services, sports clubs and other non-government organisations.

As of 2009, the largest county by area is North Yorkshire and the smallest is the City of London.

The smallest county with multiple districts is Tyne and Wear and the smallest non-metropolitan county with a county council is Buckinghamshire.

In these counties most services are provided by the county council and the district councils have a more limited role.

Their areas each correspond exactly to ceremonial counties.

The City of London and Greater London are anomalous as ceremonial counties that do not correspond to any metropolitan or non-metropolitan counties, and pre-date their creation.