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York is an ancient borough, and was one of the boroughs reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 to form a municipal borough. It gained the status of a county borough in 1889, under the Local Government Act 1888, and existed so until 1974, when, under the Local Government Act 1972, it became a non-metropolitan district in the county of North Yorkshire.
In the 1990s UK local government reform, York became one of the many boroughs to regain unitary status, but was the only one to see a substantial alteration in its borders, taking in parts of Selby and Harrogate districts, and about half the population of Ryedale district. Unsurprisingly, this caused tension with its neighbours. Ironically, the new boundary had not been promoted by the council, which had proposed the area contained within the A64/A1237 ring road. The current boundary was imposed after central Government had rejected the council's proposal.
In 2007, Councillor Irene Waudby was appointed York’s Lord Mayor and Councillor Keith Hyman York’s Sheriff with both appointments lasting a year. Although York’s Sheriff office is the oldest in England it is now a purely ceremonial post. The Lord Mayor also carries out civic and ceremonial duties in addition to chairing full meetings of the Council..
The city has its own Magistrates' Court, and more unusually also a Crown Court and County Court. It is served by the North Yorkshire Police Service.
The City of York Council has 47 councillors. As a result of the 2007 local elections, no party has an absolute majority, resulting in no overall control.
The Liberal Democrats have 19 councillors and in  May 2007 they formed a minority administration, and an executive of 9 councillors, to lead the Council for the next 12 months. The Council Leader is Cllr. Stephen Galloway. The Labour Party formed the Opposition with 18 councillors lead by Cllr. David Scott (Lab). The Conservative Party has 8 councillors and the Greens have 2.
The University of York is on the outer edge of the city at Heslington. It was York's only institution with university status until 2006, when the centrally located St John University College, formerly an autonomous college of University of Leeds, attained full university status as York St John University. The city also hosts a branch of the College of Law.
The University of York also boasts one of the most highly rated medical schools, Hull York Medical School.
The city has two major further education institutions. York College is an amalgamation of York Technical College and York Sixth Form College. Students there study a very wide range of academic and vocational courses, and range from school leavers and sixth formers to people training to make career moves. Askham Bryan College offers further education courses, foundation and honours degrees, specialising in more vocational subjects such as Horticulture, Agriculture, Animal Management and even Golf Course Management.
There are over 55 schools in the City area. The Local Education Authority is the City of York Council, who manage most primary and secondary schools within the city. About 40 primary schools cover education from ages 5-11, with some offering early years education from age three. From 11-16 education is then provided by 11 secondary schools, four of which offer additional education up to age 18.
The city also has several private schools. St Peter's School is famous as the school attended by Guy Fawkes. Two others have Quaker origins: Bootham School is co-educational and The Mount School is all-girls. On the outskirts of the city is Queen Margaret's School.
York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, stands at the city's centre.
York's centre is enclosed by medieval walls. The entire circuit (including parts where walls never existed) is about 3 miles.Clifford's Tower, a quatrefoil keep built on top of a Norman motte, was the site of a massacre of Jews in 1190.