Imported by early Spanish colonists into the capital town of San Jose de Oruno (St Joseph), the Illustrious Cabildo was the first attempt at Local Government in Trinidad. Not until 1889 was Tobago joined with Trinidad, and in 1899 the island was made a ward of the bigger sister. Before that, Tobago (which changed hands from the British, to Dutch, to French, and back to the British) while under British rule, was administered as part of the Windward Islands between 1833 and 1889.
Conquest and colonization by the British towards the turn of the 18th Century made way for the English-type Municipalities. It was the Ordinance of the Regulation of Municipal Corporation enacted on 19th August 1853 that empowered the granting of corporate status to those municipalities. The introduction, in 1945,of County Councils in the rest of the country (6 in Trinidad and 1 for Tobago) came with universal adult suffrage. That was in response to the socio-economic convulsions of the 1930s. With the establishment of the County Council system in Trinidad & Tobago in 1945, Local Government services in Tobago were provided through the Tobago County Council.
The post-independence era saw the abolition of the Tobago County Council in 1980 and the introduction of the more autonomous Tobago House of Assembly. In that same year the oil town of Point Fortin was carved out of the St Patrick County Council and made into a borough. Ten years later, in 1990, the remaining County Councils in Trinidad were also abolished, Local Government boundaries rearranged, and the number of local authorities increased. The County Councils Act and the legislations governing the Port of Spain, San Fernando, Arima, and Point Fortin Municipal Corporations were repealed. They were replaced by one consolidated legislation: the Municipal Corporations Act 21 of 1990 which granted corporate municipal status to all Local Government bodies in Trinidad. The legislation governing the Port of Spain City Corporation provided the super-structure for Act 21 of 1990.
Act 21 of 1990 provided for 18 Municipal Corporations: two City, three Borough (the new Borough of Chaguanas was created) and thirteen Regional Corporations. The Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Act No. 8 of 1992 merged some of the regions to make nine Regional Corporations, reducing the number of Municipal Corporations to 14.
In 2004 a Draft Policy Paper on Local Government Reform was published by the Ministry of Local Government. It proposed the reform and decentralization of the system with more autonomy, and mechanisms to promote greater citizen participation in Local Government. The proposals included the need for legislative review, boundary redefinition, corporate restructuring and operational changes.