THE GENERAL POWER OF COMPETENCE (GPoC)
Local councils inEnglandwere given a ‘general power of competence’ (GPoC) in the Localism Act 2011, sections 1 to 8. The power does not apply to parish meetings or to local authorities inWales.
The freedom of the GPC
Councils no longer need to ask whether they have a specific power to act. The GPoC (LA 2011 s1(1)) gives local authorities, including eligible local councils, “the power to do anything that individuals generally may do” as long as they don’t break other laws. It is a ‘power of first resort’; this means that when searching for a power to act, the first question you ask is whether you can use the GPoC. To find the answer, you ask whether an individual is normally permitted to act in the same way. For example:
- An individual can’t put someone in prison – and neither can a local council (although, like an individual, the council can press for a prosecution).
- An individual can’t impose taxes on other people – so a local council can’t use the GPoC to raise taxes.
On the other hand, an individual
- could run a community shop or post office (provided they abide by relevant rules) – so a local council can do likewise;
- can set up a company to provide a service. The GPoC clearly permits a local council to engage in commercial activity as long as it sets up a company or co-operative society (s4) for this purpose.
Sometimes a council can do things that an individual can’t do – such as creating byelaws, raising a precept or issuing fixed penalty notices – but it must do so using the specific original legislation. The GPoC does not mean that the council can delegate decisions to individual councillors – this is a procedural matter that remains enshrined in law.
To view the GPoC Presention plese click here
For more information on the power, member councils may access the following briefing paper – ‘GPoC – An introduction to the key facts’ avaiable on our ‘Members’ pages.