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Local Government: Powers

Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 10th July 2013.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local authorities have utilised the general power of competence created by section 1 of the Localism Act 2011 to date; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

The general power of competence was designed to allow local authorities—including certain parish councils—to act innovatively without being found by the courts to have acted outside the law. It gives councils confidence in their legal capacity to act both for communities and in their own financial interest to generate efficiencies and savings. The Government expects councils to use the power as their primary tool without constantly looking back to Whitehall for permission. While I regularly speak with councils who are acting innovatively, local authorities are under no obligation to notify the Government when they rely on the power nor does the Government monitor use of the power, so it is not possible for me to quantify how many councils are using the power.

However, I would add that councils up and down the country are using the general power of competence to hold prayers at the start of council meetings (further to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s written ministerial statement of 20 February 2012, Hansard, columns 61-62WS). This illustrates how it has become an everyday part of the workings of local government.

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