The system of councils in England is to be reformed, with the creation of nine new unitary authorities.
The plans will mean replacing two-tier county and city, borough or district authorities with a single body.
Local Government Minister John Healey said the changes were about "empowering citizens and communities".
The unitary authorities will be created in 2009 in Bedford, Chester, Cornwall, Co Durham, Exeter, Ipswich, Wiltshire, Northumberland and Shropshire.
Mr Healey said the government had "rigorously assessed bids".
Councils had "to prove their proposals can improve services for local people and bring potential savings for council tax payers", he told MPs.
Local Government Association chairman Sir Simon Milton said: "Opinion has undoubtedly been sharply divided on the merits of creating unitary authorities.
"There are many examples of where separate district and county councils have worked well and others of where unitary councils have also done so.
"There is no one right way to structure local government.
"The government has now made its decisions. Where unitary status has been granted, it is time to focus on the successful creation of new authorities."