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The general power of competence is a new power available to local authorities in England to do “anything that individuals generally may do”. It was provided for in the Localism Act 2011 and replaces the well-being powers in the Local Government Act 2000. It was brought into force for local authorities on 18 February 2012.

The power extends to England only. Scottish and Welsh local authorities have a general ‘well-being’ power, equivalent to the one in the Local Government Act 2000. The Welsh Government plans to introduce a general power of competence for its local authorities. The Northern Ireland Executive did so in 2014.

This note gives information on the policy background to the new power, and looks at some of the issues relating to its introduction, including the ‘prayers case’ at Bideford Town Council and the ‘LAML case’ regarding the well-being power in the 2000 Act.

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