Local Councils in England were given a General Power of Competence in the Localism Act 2011, Sections 1-8.
This means that Councils, once adopting the power, no longer need to ask whether they have a specific power to act.
The Localism Act 2011 s1 (1) gives local authorities including town and parish councils “the power to do anything that individuals generally may do as long as they do not break any other laws”. It is a power of first resort.
A council can do things that an individual can’t do but it must do so using the specific original legislation.
In order to be eligible for the General Power of Competence there are two criteria that must be fulfilled:
- At the time when the General Power of Competence is adopted, at least two-thirds of the total seats on the council must be held by members who stood at the last ordinary election or subsequent by-election, i.e. council members who have been elected (even if unopposed) rather than co-opted or appointed.
- The Clerk must hold the Certificate in Local Council Administration or an equivalent qualification.
Once a Council has confirmed it has met these criteria, they may resolve by resolution at a full council meeting to adopt the general power of competence, further confirming their eligibility at each relevant annual meeting in a year of ordinary elections.