Powers and Duties of Local Councils

Local councils are given certain powers and duties by different acts of parliament. This means that they may only do what the law says they “may” do (powers) and they must do what the law says they “must” or “shall” do (duties). Listed below are some examples of powers and duties of local councils and the legislation behind. Other functions and services may be powers or duties of the principal authority – Wiltshire Council or Swindon Borough Council depending on your area.


Powers and Duties

Statutory Provisons


Powers to provide allotments.
Duty to provide allotment
gardens if demand unsatisfied
and if reasonable

Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 ss
23, 26 & 42

Baths and

Power to provide public baths
and washhouses (i.e.

Public Health Act 1936 ss 221,222,223 &

Burial Grounds, Cemeteries and Crematoria

Power to acquire and maintain.
Power to provide.
Power to agree to maintain
monuments and memorials
Power to contribute towards
expenses of cemeteries

Open Spaces Act 1906 ss 9&10; Local
Government Act 1972 s214.
Parish Councils & Burials Authorities
(Misc. Provisions) Act 1970 s 1
Local Government Act 1972 s 214 (6)

Bus Shelters

Power to provide and maintain shelters

Local Government Misc. Provisions Act 1953 s 4

Bus Services

Power to make grants of money
(though not of a capital nature)
for bus service appearing to be
for the benefit of people living in
the council’s area or community
bus service

Local Government Rating Act 1997


Power to make Byelaws in
regard to:
Pleasure Grounds
Baths and Wash houses
Open Spaces & Burial Grounds
Mortuaries & Post Mortem
Cycle Parks

Public Health Act 1875 s 164
Public Health Act 1936 s 223
Open Spaces Act 1906s 15
Public Health Act 1936 s 198
Road Traffic Regs Act 1984 s 57(7)

Car Sharing Scheme

Power to establish and maintain, or to assist others, in car sharing scheme for benefit of persons in council’s area.

Local Government and Rating Act 1997

Chairman’s Allowance

Power to pay the chairman reasonable allowance

Local Government Act 1972 s 15(5) and 35 (5)

Change of use of land

Power to use land by a parish council for another purpose other than what it was acquired for.

Local Government Act 1972 s 126

Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Power to assist bodies such as CABs in advising individuals and by making or receiving communications or by providing representation to or before any body or person in asserting an individual’s rights or obligations

Local Government Act 1972 s 142


Power to provide public clocks

Parish Councils Act 1957 s 2


Powers to maintain

Local Government Act 1972 s 215

Commons &

Powers in relation to enclosure
as to regulation and
management and as to
providing common pasture

Enclosure Act 1845; Local Gov Act 1894 s
8 (4); Smallholdings & Allotments Act 1908
s 34

Conference facilities

Power to provide & encourage the use of facilities

Local Gov Act 1972 s 144

Community Centres

Power to provide and equip buildings for use of clubs having athletic, social or educational objectives

Local Gov (Misc. Provisions) Act 1976 s19

Crime Prevention

Power to install and maintain equipment with view to preventing and detecting crime in own area; may make grants of money to police authorities.

Local Govt Rating Act 1997


Power to deal with ponds and ditches

Public Health Act 1936 s 260


Right to appoint school governors

Education (no 2) Act 1986 s 4

Entertainment and the Arts

Provision of entertainment and support of the arts

Local Government Act 1972 s 145


Power to accept

Local Government Act 1972 s 139


Power to repair and maintain
public footpaths and bridleways.
Power to light roads and public places
Provision of litter bins
Power to provide parking places
for vehicles, bicycles and motor cycles
Power to enter into agreement
as to dedication and widening.
Power to provide roadside seats
and shelters and omnibusshelters
Power to complain to district
council as to protection of rights
of way and roadside waste.
Consent of parish council
required for ending maintenance
of highway at public expense, or for stopping up or diversion of highway.
Power to provide traffic signs and other notices
Power to plant trees etc and to maintain roadside verges.
Power to fund traffic calming measures

Highways Act 1980 ss 43 50
Parish Councils Act 1957 s3
Highways Act 1980 s 301
Litter Act 1983 ss 56
Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 ss 57, 63
Highways Act 1980 ss 30, 72
Parish Councils Act 1957 sl
Highways Act 1980 s 130
Highways Act 1980 ss 47, 116
Road Traffic Reg Act 1984 s 72
Highways Act 1980 s 96
Local Government and Rating Act 1997, s


Power to participate in schemes of collective investment

Trustee Investments Act 1961 s 11

Investigation and publicity

Power to investigate the need for public passenger transport; the use and need for roads; the management and control of traffic

Local Government Rating Act 1997


Power to acquire land by agreement, to appropriate, to dispose of Power to accept gifts
of land.

Local Govt Act 1972 ss 124, 126, 127
Local Govt Act 1972 s 139


Provision of receptacles

Litter Act 1983 ss 5,6


Power to Promote

Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 s 7

Mortuaries/ post mortem rooms

Power to provide mortuaries and post-mortem rooms

Public Health Act 1936 s 198


Provision of information relating to matters affecting local government. District Auditor now
agrees that to develop the spirit of Best Value this power may be used for parish newsletters

Local Government Act 1972 s 142


Power to deal with offensive ditches

Public Health Act 1936 s 260

Open Spaces

Power to acquire land and maintain

Public Health Act 1987 s 164; Open Spaces Act 1906 ss 9&10

Parish Property and Documents

Power to direct as to their custody

Local Government Act 1972 s 226

Public Buildings and village halls

Power to provide buildings for offices and for public meetings and assemblies

Local Government Act 1972 s 133

Public conveniences

Power to provide

Public Health Act 1936 s 87

Public inspection of documents

Public have the right to inspect certain documents

Local Government Act 1972 s 228


Power to acquire land for or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces and to manage and control them. Power to provide gymnasiums, playing fields, holiday camps
Provision of boating pools

Public Health Act 1875 s 164; Local Govt
Act 1972 Sched 14 para 27; Public Health
Acts: Amendment Act 1890 s 44; Open
Spaces Acct 1906 s 9 & 10
Local Govt (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act
1976 s 19
Public Health Act 1961 s 54


Power to appoint staff under reasonable terms and conditions

Local Government Act 1972 s 112

Subscriptions to County ALC,
NALC and other associations

Power to subscribe to local government associations

Local Government Act 1972 s143

Subsidiary Powers

The power to do anything which is coincidental to the discharge of the council’s functions.

Local Government Act 1972 s 111

Taxi fare concessions

Power to make arrangements with licensed taxi or hire car operator whereby he/she is reimbursed for giving fare concessions to persons resident in council area eligible to receive travel concessions under scheme established by County or District under Transport Act

Local Govt Rating Act 1997

Town and County Planning

Right to be notified of planning applications

Town and County Planning Act 1990 Sched 1 para 8


Power to contribute to organisation encouraging tourism

Local Gov Act 1972 s 144

Traffic calming works, speed cameras, CCTV cameras etc

Power to contribute to expenditure by highway authority (principally County Council) in constructing, removing or maintaining traffic calming works, if it will be of benefit to the area.

Local Govt Rating Act 1997

Village Signs

Power to make and erect ornamental village signs under the power to encourage visitors to the locality

Local Gov Act 1972 s 144

War memorials

Power to maintain, repair, protect and adapt war memorials

War memorials (Local Authorities’ Powers)
Act 1923 s 1 as extended by Local
Government Act 1948 s 133

Water Supply

Power to utilise well, spring or stream and provide facilities for obtaining water therefrom

Public Health Act 1936 s 125.