What is it?

The powers and duties guidance is information on what current legislation gives English and Welsh councils the power to do and what it requires them to do in law. The guidance is put together by Kent County Council's Legal Services team in partnership with esd-toolkit.

We give you a brief summary of what each power or duty is about. You should be aware that many powers and duties are more detailed than the summary and this guide is not designed to give definitive legal advice. We strongly advise that you refer to the specified legislation and, if you have any doubts about the scope of any particular power or duty, that you consult your own council’s legal team.

You should also be aware that some powers and duties, and the detail of many more, emanate from statutory instrument rather than directly from statute. Those powers and duties are not specifically covered by this guidance. We have, however, attempted to make reference to the statutory instruments involved where possible.

How might the guidance be used and why?

Councils provide a huge number of services to customers in their local areas. Councils are required to provide some of those services whilst others are optional. The guidance gives a council an understanding of which of their services are mandated and which are discretionary. Hence it helps when making decisions about what a council should provide. It can also influence whether services are provided free or customers are asked to pay.

The powers and duties included in this guidance fall into one of three categories:

  • A power or duty which results in the provision of one or more customer facing services or describes how the service should/can be provided
  • A power or duty which requires the authority to take some internal action relating to an internal service within the organisation
  • A power or duty which is generic and which, whilst it may impact on a large number of services provided, does not actually result in the provision of any service

What is the scope of the guidance?

The guidance covers powers and duties emanating directly from statute relating to the following bodies in England and Wales only - district councils (all forms); county councils; county borough councils; London borough councils; the Common Council of the City of London; combined fire authorities; and the governing bodies of maintained schools.

How is the Guidance structured?

Guidance aims to cover the powers and/or duties relevant to each service in the Local Government Service List of customer-facing services delivered by English and Welsh councils. There is also guidance for some internal services and some general guidance which is not service specific.

The guidance page lets you search, browse and download guidance for your chosen services. If you wish, you can structure the download and output to rich text documents to match the two level local government Function List.

For open data specialists, the guidance can be accessed as Linked Data from the data page.

Local Government powers and duties information is provided for guidance only. You should refer to legislation and/or check requirements with your council’s own legal team for full details.