A Provincial Council (also sometimes translated literally as provincial deputation, Spanish: diputación provincial) is the administrator and governing body of a province of Spain. It is one of the entities that make up local government in Spain. They have existed in one form or other since 1836, though criticised as anachronistic.
The Council is made up of a president, vice presidents, an executive committee and the plenary assembly of deputies.
The role of the Provincial Council is to:
- provide legal, economic and technical assistance and co-operation to municipalities, particularly those with more limited economic and managerial resources;
- coordinate municipal services in order to ensure the provision of compulsory minimum services;
- provide public services extending to several municipalities and to associations of municipalities (Spanish: comarcas);
- promote provincial interests.
Provincial Councils are funded with small portions of the income tax, value-added tax, payments from municipalities, some other minor taxes such as a levy a surcharge on the municipal business tax, and a motor vehicle tax. They can borrow if authorised by the State or their Autonomous Community and then only for investment purposes.
By autonomous community
There are provincial councils in the provinces of the autonomous communities of Galicia, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencian Community, Castile and León, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, and Andalusia. Basque Country have what are known as diputaciones forales (English: chartered councils), while in the Canary and Balearic Islands there are cabildos (councils) and consejos insulares (island councils) which perform functions similar to those of provincial councils.
Autonomous communities with only one province (Asturias, Cantabria, Community of Madrid, Murcia and La Rioja) and the Chartered Community of Navarre, do not have deputations as the government of the region handles all such functions.
The deputies are elected from the general public by the municipal councillors (Spanish: concejales) that make up the province, not directly by the populace. The number of deputies are determined in proportion to the number of inhabitants in each of the judicial districts using the D'Hondt method. Each judicial district covers a number of municipalities.
The number of deputies per province depends on population and is given as follows:
|Up to 500,000||25|
|More than 3,500,000||51|
The president is elected in the inaugural session of the Council from amongst their number. The president selects the vice presidents and the executive committee.
According to one academic, Provincial Councils have been, since their creation, the most controversial of Spain's public institutions. According to this criticism, they were neither conceived to serve the interests of the public nor for promoting provincial development. Their only concrete function in law is to support smaller municipalities. Purportedly they only serve the interests of political parties, by distributing paid positions to party members or their associates. This is because, indirectly elected, the deputies and office holders are in practice decided by the top officials in the larger political parties, the author says. Spain has declared itself not bound to the full extent by the requirement for direct elections of all local authorities. 
A European report criticises the overlap in responsibilities between various government levels. 
- Organic Law 7/ 1985, Article 31(3).
- Spanish Constitution 1978, Article 141(2).
- Organic Law 7/ 1985, Article 32(1).
- Organic Law 7/ 1985, Article 36(1).
- The Spanish Constitution 1978, Article 141(4). sfn error: no target: CITEREFThe_Spanish_Constitution1978 (help)
- Hooghe, Marks & Schakel 2016, pp. 500-501. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHoogheMarksSchakel2016 (help)
- Before the establishment of autonomous communities in the 1980s, the provinces of Logroño (currently La Rioja), Madrid and Murcia, Oviedo (currently Asturias) and Santander (currently Cantabria) had a provincial deputation. Before the establishment of Navarra as Chartered Community, it had a diputación foral.
- Cools & Verbeek 2013, paragraph 24.
- Organic Law 7/ 1985, Article 34(3) and Article 35(1).
- Sánchez Morón 2017, p. 1.
- Cools & Verbeek 2013, Recommendation 336 (2013) paragraph 2(b).
- Cools & Verbeek 2013, p. 1.
- ABC_CValenciana 2018.
- Linde Paniagua 2018.
- Sánchez Morón, Miguel (January 2017). "¿Deben suprimirse las diputaciones provinciales?" [Should provincial councils be abolished?]. El Cronista del Estado Social y Democrático de Derecho (in Spanish). Iustel. 65. ISSN 1889-0016. Retrieved 20 June 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Cools, Marc; Verbeek, Leen (19–21 March 2013). Local and regional democracy in Spain. Council of Europe.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- "The Spanish Constitution" (PDF). Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado. 1978. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
- "Organic Law 7/1985, Basic Principles of Local Government" (in Spanish). Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado. 1985. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
- ABC_CValenciana (28 June 2018). "Podemos pide suprimir las diputaciones tras el caso de corrupción del PSOE y Compromís" [Podemos wants to abolish the provincial councils following the corruption cases of PSOE and Compromís] (in Spanish). ABC. Retrieved 22 June 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Linde Paniagua, Enrique (2018). "Las Diputaciones Provinciales y su Futuro Incierto" [The Provincial Councils and their uncertain future] (PDF). Teoría y Realidad Constitucional (in Spanish). 41: 113–135. Retrieved 22 June 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Hooghe, Liesbet; Marks, Gary; Schakel, Arjan; Osterkatz, Sandra Chapman; Niedzwiecki, Sara; Shair-Rosenfield, Sarah (2016). Measuring Regional Authority: A Postfunctionalist Theory of Governance: Volume I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)