The board of a housing services company was reportedly dismissed in December 2019 following the discovery of a variety of safety and hygiene issues in the properties they manage.
As creatures of statute, local authorities can only do those things that they are empowered to do, or those that are reasonably ancillary or incidental to those powers.
This has caused many problems over the years, and Parliament has, from time to time, tried to increase the ability of Local Authorities by introducing more “generic” powers. These, for example, included the “well-being” power under the Local Government Act 2000 (now repealed) and, more recently, the “general power of competence” within the Localism Act 2011. It should be noted that the well-being power remains in Wales, whilst the general power of competence only applies in England.
When these matters have gone before the courts, they have however got a history of interpreting legislation intended to provide for a breadth of powers in a more restrictive manner than one supposes Parliament originally intended. To date, the test of the “general power of competence” in the courts has not emerged. It’s always worth noting however that the general power of competence gives an authority the powers of individual, and many things that a local authority may wish to do are outside the powers of an individual!
Whether or not a local authority has indeed the powers to carry out the activity it wishes to do, is something that is always at the front of the mind of a local authority lawyer. This goes further and looks at whether or not such a matter is either an executive or a council matter, something that is, despite the introduction of the executive/council split with the Local Government Act 2000, still causes problems, as it is not always clear as to where the dividing line is.
Whatever the issue with local authority powers and duties, we have vast experience of navigating the whole range of the issues that need to be considered in relation to whether or not local authorities have the powers and how they should go about exercising these. This includes for example:
- Local authority powers and duties;
- Powers and duties of other public bodies;
- Internal governance considerations for councils;
- Clear and effective decision making;
- Consultation processes;
- Executive/council split;
- Proportionality and the impact of the proportionality;
- Council chairman and committee chairman;
- Constitutional issues;
- Standing orders;
- Financial regulations;
- Member/officer protocol;
- Code of Conduct and member complaints;
- Senior officer employment matters;
- Officer/member decision making; and
Our team of expert solicitors regularly advise councils on issues of vires, decision-making and the duties that councils have. This includes matters such as charging for service delivery, setting up companies, directors' responsibilities, charities and member conduct and investigations. We are leading specialists in this area and are extremely active in relation to investigations, and the powers needed and utilised by local authorities in setting up new delivery mechanisms.
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For decades now, fewer and fewer services provided by local authorities have been delivered directly by them. However, over the last couple of years, there are signs that this tide is changing.
A report published on 29 May by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that since 2009-10, local government spending on services has fallen on average by 21% in real terms.
By early morning on 3 May, it was clear that there had been a huge change in the composition of many councils across the country.
In the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, the Government has now laid draft regulations (The State Aid (EU Exit) Regulations 2019) before Parliament to establish a national framework for State aid.
A recent study revealed that only 65% of appeals were allowed in cases where councillors refused planning permission despite planning officers’ recommendation for approval.
The Government has now published its “no deal notice” for public procurement.
Join Olwen Dutton, Matthew Gregson and Alex Lawrence in our latest webinar to discuss the decision in R (Harvey) v Ledbury Town Council.
The European Court of Justice has confirmed the recent opinion that a state-funded school, providing free education, is subject to the European Union’s rules on unfair contract terms.
The High Court Ruling in R(Harvey) v Ledbury Town Council has clarified how a council should deal with complaints against a councillor & has implications for Town & Parish Councils throughout England.
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