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0 votes
I attended a presentation some years ago when a  "management consultant"  presented his vision for our village. Most of it was "pie in the sky"  and in the session afterwards I posed the question "but who pays for it all" ? The consultant replied "don't worry, produce a good plan and you will have a queue of people throwing money at you". I was unconvinced. Since that time my PC has gained the General Power of Competence and has spent lavishly on various NDP schemes.  However,  after the upcoming elections they will lose that power and default to the standard PC powers. Apart from S137 are there any specific powers which relate to expenditure on NDPs?

Incidentally is there a definitive list  of PC powers and duties, they seem to vary, depending on where you look
asked by (1.3k points)

3 Answers

0 votes
Please explain what you mean by the phrase "spent lavishly on NDP schemes."  A neighbourhood development plan is a legal process that allows communities to specify planning policies for their area.  It creates a document that sits alongside the Local Plan to be used in determining applications.

Section 137 relates to expenditure that provides a demonstrable public benefit, but is not specifically authorised under other powers.  It is often used for charitable donations.  It excludes payments which the council is authorised or required to make by other legislation, which would include the costs of preparing a neighbourhood plan, as these are authorised in the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012.
answered by (22.3k points)
Part of the ND plan included a Village Enhancement Scheme whish sought to reduce road speeds and improve safety concerns. Despite having no statistical evidence that problems existed (only a perception)  the PC is introducing and paying for a project to implement a 20mph (was 30)  speed limit and a table adjacent to an existing pedestrian crossing.
On this specific issue, the Highways Act 1980 includes a power for parish councils to contribute to traffic calming schemes, as follows:-

"274A Contributions by parish or community councils.
A parish council or community council may contribute towards any expenses incurred or to be incurred by a highway authority in constructing, removing or maintaining—
(a) traffic calming works, or
(b) other works (including signs or lighting) required in connection with traffic calming works,
if, in the opinion of the council, the expenditure is or will be of benefit to their area."

This is a general power available to all parish councils, regardless of GPC.  As far as I am aware, it is the only power that parishes have to spend money on the actual highway (as opposed to pavements, footpaths, street lights etc).

In my parishes, such a scheme could not go ahead without the support of the highway authority and the police, who would require detailed statistical evidence of need.  The local desire to reduce the speed limit must be balanced against the rights of road users to make reasonable progress on their journeys.
Yes Dave I had located this power from the list. I have recently had a long battle with the Highways Authority about their legal right to close Highways under RTRA 1984 s14 (they are extremely liberal with their interpretation) and that includes a duty to consider of S122 which reads to "secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic (including pedestrians) and the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities".  In our case we have effectively a village High Street with a 30 mph limit and a pedestrian crossing.  Speed tests show average speeds of "less than 25mph" and no accidents have been recorded. The plan is at a cost of £30k to lower the speed limit to 20mph and insert a raised table by the zebra crossing. Worth a note to the HA I think.
The parish council has the power to fund the speed limit change, but has the traffic order been approved by the highways authority?
0 votes
A comprehensive user-friendly list of powers and duties is contained in the Good Councillor's Guide, pages 64-69 of the 2017 or 2018 editions (see NALC website).
answered by (22.3k points)
What is position if a PC agrees to fund something in the future  under its GPC but then loses GPC  and finds that it no longer has the necessary  power for the spend involved.. Is its only choice S137 or it falls?
The arrangements for "work in progress" are covered in paragraph 3 of The Parish Councils (General Power of Competence) (Prescribed Conditions) Order 2012, as follows:-

"Transitional provision
3.—(1) This article applies to a parish council in the circumstances described in paragraph (2).
(2) The circumstances are that—
(a) the parish council has passed a resolution under paragraph 1 of the Schedule; and
(b) at the next relevant annual meeting to be held after the meeting at which that resolution is passed, the parish council does not pass another resolution under that paragraph.
(3) The council shall continue to be an eligible parish council for the purpose of completing any activity—
(a) undertaken in the exercise of the general power, but
(b) not completed before the day of the meeting referred to in paragraph (2)(b)."

For clarity, the "resolution under paragraph 1" being the resolution that the council meets the requirements for GPC and wishes to adopt it.
–1 vote
Neighborhood development is really the role of principal Authorities and many produce them for the parishes. General power of competence might not permit anything comparable being accomplished by town and parish councils as theyt are not planning auhorities.    NALC wanted to see these as part of their self serving now defunct "Quality Parish Council" status.
answered by (16.4k points)
As a resident I have always tried to understand the secret world of Parish Councils and how they operate . In particular I seek to understand how they raise money and spend it. I know it is always easy to criticise but the lack of accountability and consultation has always surprised me and generally residents  find it difficult contribute to any debate.  In recent times my PC has enjoyed GPC and have been able to fund whatever they choose. However our upcoming election will be uncontested and because those being elected fall below the two thirds threshold I am assuming both the GPC and power of well being will lapse. In such a scenario I assume they will default to the usual powers and duties (and s137) . Am I correct?

Having reviewed the powers and duties in the Good Councillors Guide could someone comment on  the issue as it relates to devolved services. The Localism Act S81-86  seems to "challenge" and provide for the funding  of community services like libraries and youth clubs so can a PC for example take over any lapsed services and pay for them?. Does the Localism Act apply to all forms of PC i.e. even those without the two thirds elected councillors.?  As an individual I happen to believe that a case exists for those who use these services to pay for them. In a previous thread the issue of discrete charges/  precepts has been mentioned so how do these work ? Are they operated very much along the same lines as the "official precept" or can they be voluntary ?
 Sorry to go off topic slightly but anxious to understand
PS hope for early reply Annual  Parish meeting tonight!!
GPC widens powers, but I would hesitate to use the phrase "whatever they choose" (although it may seem like it at times!)  The Local Government Association publishes a user-friendly guide on GPC, entitled "The General Power of Competence" which I recommend.

After the election, if the council no longer qualifies, it cannot adopt the GPC, so will revert to normal powers.  The power of well being was, in broad terms, the forerunner of the GPC, so although the concept still exists (and I find it useful to refer to it in the council's deliberations) it has no legal standing.

Parish councils raise money through the annual precept, collected by the district council on their behalf.  They may also charge for services (cemeteries being a typical example), however the level of charges should be appropriate and affordable and should be calculated to cover the cost of providing the service, rather than generating a profit.  Many parish councils fund specific projects by applying for grants from local, regional, national and even international funders.  They may also fund specific aspects of their work by public appeal (war memorials, defibrillators etc).  There can only be one precept.  The annual budget-setting process must include all of the council's proposed activities in a financial year and it is through this process that the precept is set.

Many services previously provided by county and district councils are being passed down the chain to the parish and town councils, who have the powers to operate these services or to establish or support a voluntary organisation to do so.  The Localism Act, which applies to all councils, provides a framework for communities to take on the ownership and management of amenities such as village pubs, post offices, shops etc.  This would normally be undertaken by a voluntary organisation established specifically for the purpose, but the parish council may provide financial support, if appropriate.  There are specific rules relating to permanent trading activities for profit and it is extremely rare for a parish council to involve itself in such activities.

In the broadest terms, the role of the parish council is to respond to local issues, address local concerns and to meet the needs of the local community (the majority, not just those who shout loudest!)  If they are not doing this, they may need a gentle reminder.  I hope your Parish Meeting goes well.
Re "Neighborhood development is really the role of principal Authorities and many produce them for the parishes."  Neighbourhood Development Plans (more commonly described as Neighbourhood Plans), can only be led by the parish or town council, a neighbourhood forum, or a community organisation.  Whilst the local planning authority may offer technical support and guidance, they have no influence over the process.

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