Districts of Germany

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German districts (Kreise) are administrative units used in Germany for local government.

The districts are in between the Länder (German states) and the local / municipal levels (Gemeinden). They are not to be confused with the larger Regierungsbezirk.

Their equivalent in other nations is the county or arrondissement.

Types of districts[change | change source]

Most of the districts are rural districts (Landkreise). There are 295 Landkreise.

Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants (and smaller towns in some states) are not usually part of a district, but do the work of a district themselves. These are known as urban districts (Kreisfreie Städte or Stadtkreise) The equivalent in the United Kingdom is a unitary authority, they do the work of a town and a county. There are 107 of these Kreisfreie Städte.

This makes a total of 402 districts.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are some cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants which are not urban districts, for example Iserlohn, Recklinghausen, Siegen, Paderborn, Bergisch Gladbach, Witten and Neuss. These cities belong to a district, but still do so the districts jobs themselves, as though they were independent.

Responsibilities[change | change source]

The districts are responsible for the following:

  • according to federal and regional laws:
    • the building and upkeep of B roads
    • other building plans which cover more than one local authority's area
    • caring for national parks
    • social welfare
    • youth welfare
    • the building and upkeep of hospitals
    • the building and upkeep of state institutes of secondary education
    • household waste collection and disposal
    • car registration
    • electing the Landrat or Landrätin, the chairperson of the district
  • according to local laws: (differ in each region)
    • financial support for culture
    • the building of pedestrian zones and bicycle lanes
    • financial support for school exchanges
    • the building and upkeep of public libraries
    • revitalisation of the economy
    • encouraging tourism
    • the management of Volkshochschulen (state run adult education colleges)

All these tasks are carried out by local (municipal) authorities operating together. Urban districts have these responsibilities and also those of the municipalities.

District council[change | change source]

The district council, the Kreistag, is the legislative body of the district and is responsible for local self-administration. The parliament is elected every five years, except in Bavaria where it is elected every six years.

District administration[change | change source]

The person in charge of the district's government is the Landrat or Landrätin. In parts of northern Germany, this is also the name of the district administration, in southern Germany it is known as Kreisverwaltung.

Related pages[change | change source]