Referendums on council tax
will provide a highly structured mechanism forthe Secretary of State to determine the level of council tax.4. The
Community Right to Challenge
could be an excellent opportunity forcharities and not-for-profit organisations, and groups of council staff to bid toprovide council services, however the role of the local authority as an arbiterbetween rival bids, and as a guarantor against service failure will need to be moreclosely examined.5.
Arrangements for parish councils to nominate buildings and assets of community value
may be extended to community organisations, but will notprevent the intervention of Ministers in what the Bill seeks to characterise as localdecisions.6. The revision of the
local planning regime
to allow local people to be involved inplanning their areas consists of a highly cumbersome and resource-intensivescheme of inspections and referendums which is ultimately likely to be funded bydevelopers, with councils also bearing significant costs.
Powers and status of local government: General Power of Competence –clauses 1-7
The Bill provides a power for councils in England to do anything lawful, and in this itis broader than the well-being power. It makes clear that councils will be able tomake decisions that involve activities anywhere in the UK or abroad, to do so for acharge or for a commercial purpose, and whether the activity benefits the authorityor local people, or, it appears, others benefit, for example through the externalprovision of services to other organisations. The well-being power is repealed as faras England is concerned: it will continue to apply in Wales. There are some powerful caveats. Decisions using the general power will be subjectto the express limitations on what councils can do in existing legislation - thoughthis may overcome one problem associated with the well-being power by narrowingthe scope of the restrictions that apply – and it will be possible to exclude use of thegeneral power in particular fields in future legislation too. The limitations oncharging and providing services on a commercial basis are similarly based on thecurrent law, so that it won’t be possible to charge a commercial rate for servicesprovided using the new power, unless this is done through a company. Nor should itbe forgotten that activities using the new power will be subject to the general law,including competition law, and that decisions will be governed by the tests, such asreasonableness, that apply to all local authority decisions. The Secretary of State reserves some important powers: to make orders preventingspecific activities using the power – a parallel with the well-being power – and –