Section 82 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act came into force on 26 December, inserting a new section 19A into the 1894 Local Government Act. This new section amends the legislation to clarify that the 1894 Act does not affect the discretionary powers of parish councils in England to fund church repairs or improvements, or property held for an ecclesiastical charity.
What does this mean for our council?
This means that you can now use your discretionary powers for some financial assistance to the church including those of other Christian denominations and non-Christian faiths. So it might apply in the following circumstances:
What will we need to consider when we get a funding request from the church?
You will need to treat requests for funding in respect of church property or property held for an ecclesiastical charity as you would any other funding request. You are not under any additional duties as a result of the amendment so will need to consider whether the council has a discretionary or general power they can use to offer funding.
We do recommend councils have a Grant Awarding Policy which specifies how the council will handle any funding requests and how an organisation (church or others) can apply. We don’t have a template, but councils without a policy may be able to find one elsewhere which they can adapt for their council.
If the council is relying on a general power, such as section 137 or the GPoC then we would recommend consulting Legal Topic Note 31E or the Knowledge Bank pages linked above to check the requirements; section 137 requires the expenditure to be commensurate with the benefit brought to the area, and you will need to be aware of the annual limit on expenditure.
What is NALC’s advice?
The previous legal briefing on financial assistance to the church (L01-18) has been withdrawn. LTN 31E has been amended to update the advice in accordance with the amendment. A new legal briefing has been issued, and we would recommend councils read the briefing (below) for guidance on the changes.
Do we have to support the church?
No, there are no additional duties created as a result of the amendment. It will be up to each council to decide whether they would like to offer financial support when they receive a request.
Where else can we get advice?
Our Knowledge Bank contains more information about the council’s powers and duties. Please also contact our Advice Service for any more information, including guidance on what powers the council may be able to use.