Powers of Local Councils

General Power of Competence

North Horsham Parish Council has the General Power of Competence which means that it can do ‘anything that individuals generally may do’. The power was provided for in the Localism Act 2011.

To gain the General Power of Competence a parish council must have a qualified Clerk (the Clerk must hold the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA) as a minimum). Two thirds of the members of the Council must hold office as a result of being declared elected. The council must resolve at a meeting that it meets the criteria for eligibility.

North Horsham Parish Council resolved to hold the General Power of Competence on 30th June 2016. If the council loses its qualified clerk or has insufficient elected councillors then it must record its ineligibility at the next ‘relevant’ annual meeting of the council (after the ordinary election). If it has already started, an activity can be finished, but the council cannot start anything new.

Councils that do not have the General Power of Competence can only act within powers bestowed on them (see list below).

The following is a list of some of the Powers of a Parish Council, as provided by various Acts of Parliament

Allotments – to provide and maintain allotments for cultivation

Arts – to develop and improve knowledge of the arts and crafts which serve the arts *

Baths and Wash-houses – to provide baths and wash-houses (in modern terms, a launderette)

Bus Shelters – to provide bus shelters

Cemeteries – to provide and maintain burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria *

Churchyards – to contribute to the costs of a churchyard

Clocks – to provide and maintain public clocks, on churches or elsewhere *

Crime Prevention – to install equipment and establish schemes for the detection or prevention of crime *

Entertainments – to provide public entertainment and any premises for entertainments (including maintaining bands or orchestras and providing for dances) *

Halls – to provide buildings for public meetings and functions, for indoor sports or physical recreation or for the use of clubs etc. having recreational, social or athletic objects *

Lighting – to provide and maintain footway lighting which lights road or pavements

Litter – to provide litter bins and support for anti-litter campaigns *

Mortuaries and Post Mortem Rooms – to provide mortuaries and post mortem rooms

Open Spaces – to provide and maintain public open spaces, pleasure grounds and public walks

Parking Places – to provide and manage car and cycle parks

Playing Fields – to provide and maintain land for any kind of outdoor recreation, including boating pools *

Ponds – to deal with ponds, pools or other places containing filth or matter prejudicial to health *

Public Lavatories – to provide and maintain public lavatories

Rights of Way – maintenance of public footpaths and bridleways

Roadside Verges – to plant and maintain roadside verges

Seats – to provide and maintain seats on the public highway *

Signs – to erect signs which warn of dangers of announce a place name or indicate a bus stop

Swimming – to provide indoor or outdoor swimming pools or bathing places *

Tourism – to provide facilities for conferences and encouragement of recreational and business tourism *

Traffic Calming – to contribute towards the cost of traffic calming works provided by the highway authority

Transport – to establish car-sharing and taxi-fare concession schemes; to make grants for community bus services and the provision of information about public transport services *

Village Green – to maintain the village green *

War Memorials – to maintain, repair, protect and adapt war memorials

With regard to those powers marked with a *, in addition to exercising the power itself, a Parish Council may help another body to act by giving financial assistance.

Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 enables Parish Councils to spend a limited amount of money for purposes for which they have no other specific power as long as the direct benefit accruing to its area or residents is commensurate with the expenditure incurred.
The Maximum amount that can be spent under section 137 in a financial year is an index linked amount per head of the number of persons on the electoral roll for the parish as at 1st April of the relevant financial year. The Department of Communities and Local Government set the index linked amount per head which in 2017/18 is £7.57.