The metropolitan county councils were abolished in 1986 with most of their functions being devolved to the individual boroughs, making them de facto unitary authorities. The remaining functions were taken over by joint boards.
The metropolitan counties have population densities of between 800 (South Yorkshire) and 2,800 (West Midlands) people/km². Individual metropolitan districts range from 4,000 people/km² in Liverpool to only 500 people/km² in Doncaster. Today, residents of metropolitan counties account for around 22% of the population of England, or 18% of the United Kingdom.
The six metropolitan counties and their metropolitan districts are:
The idea for creating administrative areas based upon the large conurbations outside London, based on the model of the County of London or Greater London, was mooted several times in the 20th century. The Local Government Boundary Commission in 1948 had proposed several new counties including ones based on 'South East Lancashire North East Cheshire' and 'South West Lancashire North West Cheshire'. The Local Government Commission for England proposed in the 1960s this arrangement for Tyneside and draft proposals considered it for Selnec. Its proposal for the West Midlands conurbation preferred instead an area of contiguous county boroughs with no overall metropolitan authority.