Division of Powers
Malta is a decentralised unitary state. The State of Malta is a Parliamentary Republic. Malta obtained independence in 1964 from the British Empire and became republican a decade later. The unicameral House of Representatives (Kamra tad-Deputati) is composed of 65 members elected for a five-year term and has the power to make laws “for the peace, order and good government of Malta” (Article 65 of the Constitution).

Malta is a unitary state with no federal structure.  According to the Constitution; the only element of self-government below the level of the republic itself is the system of local councils. Until 1993, no local councils were established in Malta. Following the adoption of the Local Council Act that year, 67 councils were established.  Currently, there are 68 elected local councils responsible for managing and delivering a limited number of specific services at local level. The Local Councils Act was amended in 2009 (Local Councils' Reform Act No XVI of 2009). Five Regional Committees have been set up, corresponding to the five Regions (article 37A(1) of the Local Council Act). The functions of the Regional Committees are established by the Minister responsible for Local Government (Home and Parliamentary Affairs) in the form of regulations following consultation with the Local Councils Association. However, local Councils within a given region may also, upon unanimous agreement, authorise the Regional Committee to assume powers conferred to them. So far, the Local Enforcement System and street lighting have been devolved to the Regional Committees. Management of regional libraries is also planned to be devolved.

The Regional Committees have the power to make by-laws for the purpose of carrying out their functions. For the first time it also established Administrative Committees. Regional Committees have legal personality are headed by Presidents of the Region and shall be responsible for performing the devolved functions or delegated to it by means of an order of the Minister. The new amendments introduced the establishment of the five following regions: Region Gozo, Northern Region, Central Region, Southeast Region and Southern Region.

The Constitution dates from 1964 and was amended in 2001 to incorporate the system of local government. By virtue of a constitutional amendment in 2001 adding a new Chapter XA to the Constitution, the system of local councils is now entrenched in the Constitution in the following way (Article 115A): “The State shall adopt a system of local government whereby the territory of Malta shall be divided into such number of localities as may by law be from time to time determined, each locality to be administered by a Local Council elected by the residents of the locality and established and operating in term of such law as may from time to time be in force”. The Local Councils Act, modelled on the European Charter of Local Self-Government of the Council of Europe and which was adopted in 1993, set up local councils as local government entities.

Fiscal autonomy is limited. Local Councils cannot levy their own local taxes and they do not benefit from shared tax revenue from the state. The greatest share of Maltese Local Councils’ revenue comes from State grants (79.9% in 2005/2006). Local Councils also receive revenue from fees charged for the use of local public services, and income generated by investment and law enforcement. Sub-national public sector expenditure in 2005 represented 0.6% of GDP and 1.4% of the total public expenditure; the lowest percentages in the EU.

General division of powers​​​

Central level

National legislative responsibilities in all areas.

Responsibilities for:

  • Arterial and distributor roads determined by the Structure Plan;
  • National monuments, national parks or gardens;
  • Industrial estates;
  • Ports, airports and other national territories, establishments, buildings and items listed in the Fourth Schedule to the Local Councils’ Act.

Regional level

  • The Regional Committees have the following competences (Article 19 of the Regional Committees Regulations);
  • Maintenance of street lighting;
  • Enforcement of laws delegated to the Regional Committees;
  • Engaging the services of local wardens;
  • Organisation of cultural activities;
  • Protection of the environment;
  • Delegated functions by the central government;
  • Providing for all other work not excluded from a Council’s competence by law or assigned to another authority. 

Local level

Local councils have the following responsibilities (Article 33 the Local Council Act):

  • Maintenance of children’s playgrounds, public gardens, sport, culture or other leisure centres;
  • Maintenance and cleanliness of public areas; ​
  • Maintenance of local public roads;
  • Urban planning;
  • Urban development;
  • Providing information relating to the rights of citizens;*
  • Establishment and maintenance of childcare centres, kindergartens;*
  • Maintenance of educational services or buildings;*
  • Maintenance of health and rehabilitation centres, government dispensaries, health district offices and homes for senior citizens, day centres for senior citizens and night care centres;*
  • Maintenance of public order (local tribunals);
  • Delegated functions by the central government;
  • Administration of commerce licenses and permits;
  • Public property and bus shelters;
  • Local public libraries;
  • Proposal of persons to be appointed as presidents of primary schools;
  • Promotion of social policy initiatives;
  • Safeguard of local identity;
  • Assistance to artists and musicians and sports persons from the locality;
  • Organisation of cultural activities;
  • Protection of the natural and urban environment of the locality;
  • Organisation of sports activities;
  • Promotion of entrepreneurship;
  • Providing for all other work not excluded from a Council’s competence by law or assigned to another authority.

*responsibility is shared with the central level