The General Power of Competence The means by which Local Councils can engage fully in partnerships with: • the Principal Authority • other key stake holders and • each other!
The General Power of Competence (GPoC) Localism Act 2011 sections 1-8 A local authority has power to do anything that individuals generally may do. (LA 2011 s1(1) Note: the power of well-being no longer exists for new projects.
An individual can …. • • • •
set up a company to provide a service run a shop or post office support a school invest in local businesses
But an individual can’t put someone in prison – and neither can a local council.
Government thinking The power enables the council to •
work with others to provide cost-effective services be innovative meet the needs of local people
The GPoC is a power of ‘first resort’
Freedom to act • • • •
Anywhere - not just in the parish Anyone – including individuals No need to prove benefit to council or community It doesn’t matter if there are overlapping powers
Using the power to create income • The council can charge for services.
• The council can trade through a company or a cooperative society.
• The council can invest in a local company and receive a share dividend if the primary purpose is to support the local economy.
And …. • Councils must act reasonably when using the power (the Wednesbury rules)
• Councils continue to use specific powers for things that individuals can’t do; eg: • raise a precept • create byelaws • issue fixed penalty notices
Eligibility A parish or town council must meet criteria set by the Secretary of State (Localism Act 2011 s8) The criteria are set out in the Parish Councils (General Power of Competence) (Prescribed Conditions) Order 2012 Two criteria: Elected councillors and qualified clerk
The eligibility process At a meeting of the full council, the council decides that it meets the criteria. The resolution must be clear in the minutes. The council confirms that it meets the criteria at every annual meeting of the council after ordinary elections (if it does).
Qualified councillors and Clerks At the time of the resolution • the number of councillors elected at the last election, or at a subsequent by-election must equal or exceed two thirds of the total number of seats on the council. • The clerk must hold one of two sector-specific qualifications • •
CiLCA (Certificate in Local Council Administration) The Level Four qualification from the University of Gloucestershire (eg CertHE Local Policy or Community Engagement & Governance)
Loss of eligibility If the council can no longer confirm eligibility at the first annual meeting of the council after the ordinary election
• it cannot start anything new under the GPoC • it must go back to using specific powers and s137 (currently £6.98 per elector)
Restrictions on using the power Statutory duties remain in place: • Duty to act with regard to crime and disorder • Duty to consider conserving biodiversity • Duty to provide allotments if there is a demand
The council must comply with procedural and financial duties and with laws such as: • • • •
Health and safety Freedom of information Data protection Employment law 12
Restrictions on using the power If an activity is already restricted by a specific power, then the restriction remains; eg: permission is needed before working on roadside verges. If another authority has a statutory duty related to the activity (eg: provision of libraries), this might restrict action … but ask ‘what may an individual do’.
And what next …. For further advice or information … • check out the ChALC.org.uk website • see examples of best practice at NALC.gov.uk • request the briefing note from [email protected]