About Local Councils

A local council is a type of local authority with specific statutory functions and powers. Unlike other types of local authorities, there are relatively few statutory functions imposed on a local council. The few statutory functions are important and relate to, for example, the holding of meetings, the management of its finances and the preparation of annual accounts.

A local council employs staff, owns and manages premises, enters into contracts, and provides services. Like other types of local authorities, a local council has obligations in the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.

How do local councils operate?

Most decisions about what a local council does will be taken at meetings by councillors. Some of the work of a local council is delegated to a smaller group of councillors (i.e. a committee or subcommittee) or staff. Although the public has a right to attend meetings of a council and its committees, it is the councillors who collectively make decisions about council business and what services or facilities it provides.

But how does a council know which services to deliver or what activities to support? Usually the activities of a local council or the services and facilities that it provides are driven by the demands of the residents who live in the council’s area.

If it does not already know, a local council may identify the needs of its local residents by listening and consultation. It will be up to the council to decide the priorities for action.

How are they funded?

The local council must carefully budget for the expenditure it will incur in the next financial year.

A local council may generate income from money from rents from premises that it leases or licences for use by others, or from the services or facilities it provides (e.g. sports facilities, off street car parks). It may also receive grants for certain projects.

The main source of income for a local council derives from the precept levied on the residents in its area. The precept is incorporated into a local resident’s council tax bill.

Where do you find them?

Local councils can be found or established anywhere, including areas as diverse as densely populated urban developments, market towns or sparse rural areas.

What do they do?

Unlike other types of local authorities, local councils are not tasked with statutory responsibilities relating to the provision of housing or social care, education or waste collection. Local councils are in the fortunate position of having statutory powers which they have discretion to exercise.

Many local councils choose to get involved in a broad range of projects and activities, the purpose of which is to make the local area a better place to live. Although local councils are not formally obliged to provide many public services, Government is encouraging local councils to deliver more services and play a greater part in supporting their communities.

NALC’s book ‘Local Councils Explained 2013 publication’ provides a full explanation of the role and internal workings of a local council. Information about Local Councils Explained and how to purchase it is available from NALC’s website.

How local councils make a difference

A local council can be a key partner in assessing the needs of its community and the provision of services to meet those needs.

Below is a brief overview of the many possible benefits of local councils:
A local council has statutory powers which, if exercised, benefit its area or residents
Their councillors have a local connection to the area
Money raised is spent locally to address the priorities of the local council’s area and residents
A local council may provide support to voluntary bodies
Local councils may have access to grants to support the work they do
The work of the local council is driven by committed councillors and delivered or supported by its staff.

(Extracts from ‘What are Local Councils’ National Association of Local Councils [NALC] 2017)

Useful Documents

Please use the link below to access more information on local councils

All about local councils
What are local councils