NALC works on several projects outside of our key strategic aims. Find out more below:
The My Community Rights website and free advice service run by Locality helps communities to use the Community Rights.
£55.5m in grants and financial support have been made available by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to run services, ownership and management of assets, and Neighbourhood Planning Our Place support and grants.
What are the Community Rights?
Community Rights are a set of powers that give you a greater say in how your community develops. For example, they can help you save local shops, pubs, libraries, parks and football grounds.
You can decide what is built and how the area should develop. Then, groups of people have the chance to deliver local services and develop them into community enterprises.
The new rights within the Localism Act came into effect in 2012, devolving power from government to communities, local authorities and individuals.
There are four Community Rights:
Community Right to Bid
You can use the Community Right to Bid to 'pause' the sale of a building or land you care about, giving your community time to develop a bid to buy it.
£17m in grants are available for the community ownership and management of assets.
Community Right to Build
The Right to Build gives communities the power to build new shops, housing or community facilities without going through the normal planning process.
£17.4m of financial support is available.
Community Right to Challenge
Are you looking to run a local service?
The Right to Challenge allows local groups to express their interest in taking over a local service where they think they can do it differently and better.
£10m of grants are available to help groups get ready to run public services.
Neighbourhood planning powers allow people to decide how their local area should develop and what should be built. You have the chance to choose where you want new homes, shops and offices to be built.
£7.5m of grants and direct support is available to assist groups and communities.
Advice and grants
NALC has been heavily involved over the last few years in promoting parish involvement in My Community programmes – pushing agenda such as asset transfer, joined-up service delivery and grassroots communications to parishes across England. With 90% of Neighbourhood Plans being delivered by parish councils, we are delighted that many parishes participate in the Locality/MHCLG Neighbourhood Planning programme. NALC also strongly encourages local councils to apply for the Locality Community Economic Development programme as local economic development is a huge agenda for the parish sector. We also strongly encourage parishes to join local consortia to register for the Bright Ideas fund to scope establishing local community businesses. And we also strongly encourage community bodies or groups interested in finding out more about how to set up a new parish council (including Neighbourhood Forums) to visit the Create a Council webpage.
Local councils have a hugely important role to play in the onward and macro-devolution agendas.
If devolution plans are to be successful they must include communities, neighbourhoods and parishes.
Devolution deals are often economically focused and can be far from local. Agreements to devolve powers and funding away from Whitehall have not addressed important issues relating to local democracy, power and finance.
Whilst NALC welcomes the opportunity to play an active role in the devolution agenda, in November 2015, a Devo Local White Paper was published which calls for stronger local democracy, more powers and fairer funding.
Devo Plus Toolkit
The Devo Plus toolkit, published by NALC in December 2016, is endorsed by the Local Government Association, County Councils’ Network, District Councils’ Network and National Council for Voluntary Organisations and puts into context the sector’s role within the wider devolution agenda.
The toolkit explores the how and why of devolution and alongside three case studies looks at ways in which all town and parish councils can play their part alongside important financial and legal considerations.
The links below are specific devolution related toolkits, materials and information developed by NALC and other national stakeholders since 2013.
- NALC and LGA - Modelling Devolution: Working Together to Deliver Local Services (2013)
- DCLG – Devolution Deals: The Role of Neighbourhoods (2015)
- NALC - Devo Plus Toolkit (2016)
- NALC – CALC Letter Template (2016)
- NALC Annual Conference – Devolution Presentation Slides Cllr Lillian Burns (2016)
- CPRE – Devolution Discussion Paper (2016)
- CPRE – Devolution Discussion Paper Update (2017)
- Newport Pagnell Town Council - Practical guide to taking on devolved services
- Life after a unitary reorganisation
The links below are specific devolution materials specifically generated by other national public sector stakeholders which will be of use and interest to local councils.
- LGA Devolution Hub
- LGA New Conversations Engagement Guide
- LGA Devolution Explained YouTube Video
- LGA Devolution Map
- NCVO Local needs, local voices: building devolution from the ground up
- ResPublica's Devo Digest Hub
- One community: A guide to effective partnership working between principal and local councils
Case study information
The links below are specific onward devolution toolkits, charters and materials generated from local areas across England since 2015 which will be of use and interest to local councils.
- Cambridgeshire County Council – Strategy for Building Resilient Communities (2015)
- Gloucestershire County Council – Onward Devolution (2015)
- Cornwall Council – Localism Strategy (2016)
- Dorset County Council – Working Together Highways Strategy (2016)
- East Anglia – Devolution Consultation (2016)
- Oxfordshire County Council - Giving Communities Control over Local Services (2016)
- Swindon Borough Council – Parishes Programme (2016)
- Peterborough City Council – Parish Charter (2015 )
- Worcestershire County Council – Councils Working Together (2015)
- Worcestershire County Council – Act Local (2016)
NALC launched the Diversity Commission to support the growth of diversity in local councils. Local councils work for their community and are shaped by the community. With this in mind, the Commission has begun work to look at ways for local councils to encourage every community member to get involved with what happens locally. Therefore, we are asking local councils to:
- Encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to stand for election
- Be representative of the community they serve
- Devote more time to engaging those who feel isolated from their community
Take a look at NALC's top tips on how to get involved in NALC's Diversity Commission.
NALC launched their Diversity Commission in 2017.
The Diversity Commission was launched to assess the diversity of local councillors' age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socio-economic background, and the diversity of representatives of county associations involved in the governance of county associations and NALC. The Diversity Commission will be making recommendations for action and change needed to address these findings.
With over 80,000 councillors in local councils, it is important that diversity is brought to the forefront, addressed and overcome to ensure full representation of the electorate within our sector, with councillors reflecting the communities and people they represent.
Increasing diversity in the public sector is paramount for a sector that strives to promote equality and is particularly pertinent to local councils given their role at the forefront of community representation, service delivery and partnership working. The Equality Act 2006 and subsequent Equality and Human Rights Commission 2007 are in place to challenge discrimination and promote equality of opportunity.
By creating a Diversity Commission, NALC can implement processes and be accountable for promoting diversity within its councils and at a county and national level. This issue has consistently been raised by councils and councillors at NALC meetings and events and is a strategic priority in NALC's work programme for 2017/18.
Diversity in local councils in 2018
This Diversity in local councils in 2018 report gives an in-depth insight into the Diversity Commission's research through the NALC Councillor Census Survey. Over 2,100 councillors participated in the research, which took place over a six-month period.
The Diversity Commission comprises representatives from local councils and organisations who share our view on diversity. See some of the work they have carried out below:
Local Government Reorganisation
The government has made clear that it will consider bids from areas wishing to reorganise its local government structures. The aim is to make it more streamlined and efficient. There are different types of reorganisation. NALC thinks that local (parish and town) councils should be created in all non-parish areas when a Community Governance Review occurs in those areas. The needs/views of existing local councils should also be considered when Community Governance Reviews take place in parished areas. This new webpage will define reorganisation, capture recent context, show how NALC and county associations can help, provide case study thumbnails and signpost to further information.
Following successive reforms of local government, there remains a complex structure across England, added to the newly created combined authorities and various principal tier reorganisations being planned.
Despite uncertainties and concerns that arise from reorganisation, NALC and the LGA remain committed to effective partnership working with the need for cooperation and collaboration at a local level being greater than ever.
Within the context of NALC’s A prospectus for ultra-localism , local government reorganisation provides an opportunity for empowering local communities, building capacity, strengthening engagement and establishing flexible and diverse funding frameworks which protect and enhance service delivery in meeting cultural, economic and social needs.
Types of reorganisation
There are many different types of local government reorganisation that factor in some or sometimes all of the various levels of local government. Here are some thumbnails as a summary:
Creation of county unitary councils – This involves creating a single (otherwise known as a unitary) council covering a county (often shire) area. Here (as in Cornwall in 2009), the entire middle tier of district and borough councils are removed (excepting those which are unitaries themselves). This then just leaves local councils under the county unitary. Very often, county unitary areas are fully parished (e.g. Wiltshire).
The creation of unitary councils within a county area occurs when new unitary local authorities are created within a county area and at a smaller geopolitical spatial level than shire counties. This can be by amalgamating some former boroughs or districts, or can often be the creation of new city/district or borough unitaries (in 2009, Cheshire saw two new sub-county unitaries created).
Creation of new local councils – This happens as a result of a Community Governance Review (overseen by the relevant principal local authority) and can take place when a new county or sub-county unitary councils are created; or even independent of the creation of bigger new authorities – but the latter sees the creation of fewer local councils.
- The merger of district councils – sometimes district/borough councils- is merged (for instance, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney in East Suffolk) to create economies of scale and efficiency. This sometimes leads indirectly to the creation of new local councils (in the Suffolk instance just given – Lowestoft Town Council, for instance).
How can NALC and county associations help?
Recognising concerns and uncertainty over the potential impact of Local Government Reorganisation in any given area, NALC and county associations have an important role in helping local councils through such change. Assistance can be given in a range of ways depending on the type of organization requesting the query:
Campaign groups for new local councils: NALC have a range of case studies specifying how new local councils have been created in a range of different areas in England – on the Create A Council webpage. Campaign groups should also refer to Power To The People for technical guidance. In the first instance, groups should also contact their local county association for guidance or contact NALC at .
Local councils undergoing reorganisation: Local councils in areas experiencing reorganisation should first contact their county association. Councils being split into different new local councils or undergoing Community Governance Reviews should refer to the case studies on the Create a Council webpage and the Legal Topic Note on Community Governance Reviews in the member's area of the website.
County associations covering areas facing reorganisation: County associations covering geopolitical areas undergoing or likely to experience reorganisation should alert NALC in the first instance as to where reorganisation is likely to occur and the implications for local councils. It is then always a good idea to network with other county officers experiencing the same policy changes in their areas for advice and support. In addition, the Create A Council webpage is always useful. If you need a steer on the new council's aspects of reorganisation, contact NALC at or call on 020 7290 0741.
- Principal authorities: If you work for or are a member at a principal authority you need to contact the County Councils Network, the District Councils Network or the Local Government Association (LGA) for specific advice on reorganisation – depending on your type of principal authority. However, if you have any specific queries regarding the implications for the local council of reorganisation in your area, or technical queries, contact NALC at or call on 020 7290 0741.
NALC’s member's area on the website is the first port of call, providing a wide range of online resources, including Legal Topic Notes, Development Tools, Policy Briefings and case studies. Up-to-date information is included in the weekly bulletin, news feed, social media and LCR magazine. In addition, local councils can access the legal service (please log in to the member's area) offered by NALC. NALC also supports local councils through its training and events programme and leads on joint events with the LGA aimed at more effective partnership working between principal and local councils.
At a local level, county associations play a vital advocacy role, being a conduit for information between the principal authorities and local councils, facilitating discussions with lead partners and stakeholders and promoting awareness about consultation. County associations also liaise on a regional and national basis. They can impart lessons learnt and best practice from other county areas, ensuring a smooth transition as possible through reorganisation. NALC also offers assistance to local councils which have experienced reorganisation – through visits (offering technical expertise and advice).
Reorganisation and new council creation
There has recently been a greater convergence of interest in new local council creation in areas where local government reorganisation is taking place, particularly in Dorset and Suffolk.
In Dorset, a new Weymouth Town Council is being created in the wake of the outgoing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. In Christchurch, there will likely be a new town council with new surrounding local councils filling the geopolitical boundaries of the outgoing borough council.
In Suffolk, West Row Parish Council will be created involving the splitting of an existing local council, again resulting from local council reorganisation.
County associations, principal authorities, and campaign groups wanting to create new local councils during a period of wider local government reorganisation in their areas need to refer to all of the relevant case studies and background information on the Create A Council webpage and refer to the Power To The People, which contains relevant information on the process and useful case studies.
The current state of play
The government seems to be warming to the creation of more unitary councils – where areas bid for them – here are a few very brief recent thumbnails:
West Suffolk – Parliament has given the nod of approval to form a new West Suffolk Council.
Leicestershire – Leicestershire have started talks with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) regarding local government reorganisation favouring a single council with direct links to local communities through towns and parishes and also find out how residents could be affected by suggested plans.
Dorset – In a historic moment for public services in Dorset, the government has given the green light to plans to create two new unitary councils in Dorset.
Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire is proceeding with plans to reorganise local government in the county – find out more.
- Buckinghamshire – the government confirmed in 2018 it was minded to back the creation of a new county unitary council in Buckinghamshire.
Below are a few short thumbnails highlighting new larger local councils which have been created as a result of a strategic unitary reorganisation in England:
- Salisbury City Council, Wiltshire – created in 2009 following the cessation of the former Salisbury Borough Council. This is now one of NALC’s emerging Super Council interest group, having a huge service and asset base (its precept income was £1,740,096 in 2017/18). It enjoys excellent working relations with Wiltshire Council.
- City of Durham Parish Council, County Durham – created on 1 April 2018 in the county unitary area of Durham. Its 2018/19 precept income is £150,000 per annum. It has very active Environment and Planning Committees and has sound working relations with Durham County Council (unitary).
- Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, Birmingham – formally created on 1 April 2016 in the urban unitary area of Birmingham. Its 2017/18 precept income was £1,832,982. It is currently involved in town centre revitalisation and a raft of other services and has effective working relations with Birmingham City Council, whilst also being a Super Council. Much local government reorganisation takes place in the wider context of onward devolution – read the Campaign to Protect Rural England report on devolution.
Local Government Reorganisation cuts across a wide range of topic areas, with one of the key drivers for reorganisation being greater efficiency. Undoubtedly the devolving of services, assets and liabilities are often on the agenda.
NALC and the LGA have been working together to promote joint working and a better understanding at a local level and have published several guides to support collaborative partnership working.
The following are some of the most recent guides and useful web links relating to reorganisation:
The Sustainable Communities Act
The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (as amended 2010) (SCA) provides an opportunity for local (parish and town) councils to make direct proposals to the central government to remove legislative or other barriers that prevent them from improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.
Philosophy: The Need for the Act
- There has been overwhelming evidence of community decline since 2012/13, when local councils were first given the right to make proposals under the Act: the closure of local shops, post offices, and pubs and the knock-on environmental, economic and social effects of these. It is a national trend affecting the whole country. Local councils can use the Act to bring to the government’s attention significant problems of national relevance for the sector, which require redress.
- The central government can and should help to reverse this community decline – by considering all local council proposals submitted under the Act with evidence of national application and local consultation and support.
- Local councils are very well placed to know their areas and the social, environmental and economic issues that prevail there. They, therefore, also often have a very good idea about what might constitute the solutions to these local problems. Local councils should, therefore, strongly consider using the Act to highlight social, economic and environmental problems of national importance to the central government, ensuring that their proposals specify the solution for a given issue and how it can be implemented.
So this is the reason behind the Sustainable Communities Act and its proposal process for local councils – to help the central government reverse community decline and create more sustainable communities.
The Act: A bottom-up process that gives people power
Under the Act, in 2013, the government and NALC established a process empowering local councils to make direct proposals to central government departments. The ideas in local council proposals can drive the actions that government takes if proposals are adopted. This process is 'bottom-up' - because what local councils need and want at the community level should rightly drive what government does and how it acts.
Local councils are also reminded that they can also submit joint proposals with principal authorities or community groups to the government under the Sustainable Communities Act.
How the process works
The Act gives local councils (with supporting evidence and in consultation with their residents) the right to come up with proposals and then submit them directly to the central government. These proposals can be for any government action or assistance to reverse community decline and protect or promote sustainable communities. Sustainable communities are defined in the Act as incorporating four things; local economies (e.g. promoting local shops, post offices, local businesses and local jobs); environmental protection (e.g. promoting local renewable energy, protecting green spaces); social inclusion (protecting local public services and alleviating fuel and food poverty); and democratic involvement (encouraging local people to participate in decision making).
Upon receiving proposals, the central government must consider them and decide whether to implement them. If they decide not to implement a proposal, they must explain why.We are promoting local council use of the Act in the local council sector.
So local councils can submit any proposal that:
- Can be shown to promote sustainable communities as defined above; and
- Requires central government action or assistance. Local councils can submit proposals whenever they choose to – but they are advised to contact for a discussion on evidence, consultation and substance.
If councils choose to use the Act by submitting proposals, they must involve communities and citizens in their area. The Act requires that local councils consult their residents on proposal wording and substance and ask residents to provide them with evidence of support ahead of proposals being submitted. How local councils do, this is up to them, though it is recommended that local councils set up (or recognise, if they already exist) a panel or panels of resident representatives. These should include people from under-represented groups: ethnic minorities, young people, older people, tenants, etc.
Upon receiving proposals, the central government must consider them and decide whether to implement them. If they decide not to implement a proposal, they must explain why.
The legal order allowing local councils to make direct proposals to the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) under the second round invitation of the Sustainable Communities Act, 2007 – formally commenced on 14 October 2013.
Local councils should also visit the DLUHC SCA web page to find more context about the Act.
We are promoting local council use of the Act in the local council sector.
Here are a few of the latest themes to which local councils have submitted SCA proposals to the government in recent years:
- Building control
- The Dependants’ Carers’ Allowance
- Neighbourhood planning guidance
Please see our toolkits for more information on SCA-related documents (member login required).
There is a formal local council proposal form for the Act, which must be used by local councils when submitting a proposal directly to the government under the Act. This can be obtained by emailing NALC at .
As guardians of public money, there is an expectation that local councils are expected to be as transparent and open as possible. Therefore, transparency and openness are fundamental principles behind everything local councils do.
NALC has continuously promoted this and emphasised the need for all local councils to provide the democratic, local leadership that is accountable, open and transparent. NALC has encouraged all local councils to be transparent and open with their administrative and financial documents.
This is something that the government has echoed. They have made transparency and openness a key priority for local government and highlighted their ambition to increase democratic accountability to empower communities and make it easier for them to contribute to the local decision-making process.
With this in mind, the government has introduced two transparency codes to help drive its ambition. The codes apply to larger councils with an annual turnover of above £200,000 and smaller councils with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000.
Please note although the transparency codes only require smaller and larger councils to comply, NALC strongly encourages all local councils with turnovers of less than £200,000 per year to comply with the transparency code for smaller authorities as a minimum.
Larger councils with an annual turnover of above £200,000
In 2015 the government introduced a transparency code called the Local Government Transparency Code (mainly aimed at principal authorities and larger councils with a minimum annual precept or turnover of £200,000).
NALC strongly recommends that all local councils with an annual turnover of above £200k comply with the code for best practice purposes (all sections apart from appendix 3 are mandatory).
The government has advised local councils with an annual turnover of above £200k to publish the following information online:
- Expenditure exceeding £500
- Government Procurement Card transactions
- Procurement information
- Local authority land
- Social housing assets
- Organisation chart
- Trade union facility time
- Parking account
- Senior salaries
- Pay multiple
Smaller councils with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000
The transparency code for smaller authorities came into force on 1 April 2015. It required smaller councils with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000 to publish certain financial and administrative information online and make it available to the public. This aims to provide taxpayers with a clear picture of the authority’s activities, spending and governance. It also hopes to improve the ability of communities to hold local public bodies to account. All local councils with a turnover not exceeding £25,000 are required to be compliant.
From April 2015, all councils that have an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000 were required to publish the following information online:
- All items of expenditure above £100
- End-of-year accounts
- Annual governance statement
- Internal audit report
- List of a councillor or member's responsibilities
- The details of public land and building assets
- Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings
Compliance with the transparency code is compulsory for all smaller authorities with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000.
The Transparency Fund
NALC was chosen by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to administer a £4.7m fund to support the (now current) transparency legislation. Funding was available to assist smaller councils with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000 to comply with the code. The fund ended in February 2018.
The purpose of the Transparency Fund was to cover the extra burden that resulted from compliance with the transparency code for smaller authorities, aiming to promote democratic participation and make smaller authorities more transparent by giving electors access to financial information with ease.
Around 5,000 councils applied to the fund and received funding to help them become compliant.
- View the government’s FAQs on the Local Government Transparency Code 2015
- View the government’s guidance on the transparency code for smaller authorities
- View NALC’s guidance note which helps county associations understand the transparency code for smaller authorities
- View NALC’s The Good Councillor's guide to finance and transparency (members only)
- View NALC’s Hard to reach guide, which gives county associations an understanding of how to engage local councils
- View NALC’s media release: NALC helps 5,000 local councils go digital
Working with larger and smaller councils
Working with larger councils
As well as operating a Larger Councils Committee, which voices the policy views and interests of larger councils with an electorate of 6,000 or more, or an annual budgeted income of £600k, NALC is developing a raft of other services for this size of council nationally. These services include:
- A Super Councils' Network for the largest member councils with a precept of £1m (or annual turnover of £1.5 million) or more per year
- A Direct Access Scheme (providing direct access to mainly legal services)
- Delivery of a one-day bespoke event for larger councils every year
Many larger councils set up youth councils for younger residents and find the resources on the British Youth Council website particularly useful.
Working with smaller councils
NALC has established a Larger Councils Committee and a Smaller Councils Committee. However, there is no universal or widely-recognised definition of the smaller council, whether based on parish population, electorate size, annual financial turnover, fixed assets, number of members, internal substructure or level of activity. It is easier to focus on some general descriptive characteristics. In the wider local council sector, smaller councils tend to have smaller annual budgets, employ fewer (or, sometimes, no) staff, serve more rural and sparsely populated communities and operate with simple systems, basic internal structures and procedures.
Historically, few smaller councils have attempted to deliver a significant range of services, but times are changing rapidly. The Localism Act enabled it to deviate more powers from principal authorities and now, in addition to the power of wellbeing. Local councils have a general power of competence. This means that, regardless of size, they are not limited to activities expressly defined by legislation but are permitted to do any activity an individual can legally do – run a shop, a pub or local transport.
Principal authorities – whose tax-raising powers are capped – deliver fewer services and maintain fewer local assets than they formerly did. As a result, they are looking towards local councils to take over many of these responsibilities. This is one thing for the town councils – which already have a more extensive staff base and significant precepting income – but quite another for smaller councils, most of which have one employee, a part-time clerk, or a clerk and lengthsman.
Small parish councils want to see critical local services and/or many-valued local buildings, parks, and open spaces preserved. It requires a massive step up – in aspirations, staff capacity, precepts, and volunteer time. And it is all happening over a short period. Additionally, they must meet the exact legal requirements on various issues, from transparency to data protection, that much larger councils must meet.
Smaller councils are pulling out the stops to rise to the challenges, and NALC’s Smaller Councils Committee enables the constituency it represents to function by:
- Producing a range of guidance, good practice material and model documents specifically for small councils
- Actively tracking and attempting to influence the rural issues agenda – through its lobbying and in concert with partners such as the Rural Coalition.
- Monitoring, advising and influencing NALC’s decision-making and services
The Smaller Councils Committee meets formally four times a year and works virtually on a series of workstreams.