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Gifting the parish church a noticeboard and benches

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Do Parish Councils have a Power which allows them to give the local church, in this example, a noticeboard and a pair of benches? This also included paying for the work to install them.

If it is permissible then could you please point me at the correct legislation.

asked by (940 points)

2 Answers

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The simple answer is no.  Parish Councils have no powers to incur expenditure for the benefit of any religious organisation and may even have a specific prohibition.  In defining the powers of expenditure for parish councils, Section 8 of the Local Government Act 1894 specifies "not being property relating to affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity."  This specific exclusion has never been repealed.  Even the General Power of Competence is restricted to expenditure not specifically prohibited by other legislation.

Having said all this, the issue has never been tested in the courts and such payments are extremely common, so as long as you are satisfied that the public benefit is commensurate with the expenditure incurred, you are unlikely to face any sanction.
answered by (18.7k points)
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The real problem I have, related to my original question, is that the previous PC gave and erected an old noticeboard and two new benches to the church. There was nothing wrong with the noticeboard, just needed a lick of paint.
The 2 benches were purchased with a grant along with 4 others plus a village sign, etc. as part of the new, then, conservation area project.
I'm now of the PC and want to know what, if anything, the new PC can do to 'regularise' this situation? Do we just ignore it, which doesn't feel comfortable, or are there other options?
It also seems strange to me that the audit did not pick this up!
There have been so many updates to the Local Government Act over the last 125 years that nobody ever refers to the original legislation.  This was important at the time, as parish Councils were established to take responsibility for assets and expenditure managed previously by the church, so it was essential to clarify roles and responsibilities to distinguish between the two bodies.  It is still important in relation to major expenditure such as restoration of church buildings, but there appears to be a consensus that for small sums, public benefit outweighs the need to consider the minutiae of Victorian legislation.

Other possible justifications:-
Is there a public footpath through the churchyard?  You can put a bench alongside a public footpath with the landowner's permission.
Use of a grant?  The restriction doesn't mention external funds.
Have you offered "in memorium" status for the benches?  Provision, maintenance, replacement could be funded by private individuals or organisations.
Is there a war memorial in the churchyard maintained by the parish council?  Are the benches ancillary to the war memorial?

I have never heard of an Auditor raising this issue.  One of my councils has been providing the grounds maintenance service for a large open churchyard since the 1970's at a current cost of over £3,000pa.  It's the only green space in the heart of the village and provides an important amenity for the whole community, not just the congregation.  Isn't that what parish councils are supposed to do?
Great reply Dave, Thanks.
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Probably the general power of competence would allow this.  That said the parish council has to meet certain criteria in order to have the right to exercise it.
answered by (13.9k points)
The GPC permits any expenditure not prohibited by other legislation.  Expenditure on religious organisations is prohibited by other legislation.
Unfortunately GPC not an option for us.

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