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local government, devolution and powers to charge and trade

26 March 2015

Councils have a wide number of powers which allow them to trade and to charge for services which are often underused. This is often because the perception of councils making a ‘profit’ is controversial. We only need to consider the views of Mr Pickles and vocal criticism of parking enforcement and other fines to see the extent of this difficultly for councils.

Charging and trading powers are, in any event, subject to a complex legal framework and this complexity does not help in making the best use of the opportunities available.

However if councils are going to be able to throw off some of the chains of central government control, part of that has to involve taking ownership of how it charges for certain services and whether it ought to trade in others. One of the conclusions following our recent roundtable on regional devolution was that relaxation of the rules could allow councils greater freedom to collaborate with other private and public sector organisations and make use of a greater number of their functions and powers in order to generate income.

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