Why this matters to councillors
A lot has changed since the first edition of this councillor guide appeared back in 2005.
One thing is certain. We now know that in the decade ahead public services will need to adjust to significantly lower levels of central funding than in the past. And councillors will be called upon to play a critical role, providing leadership to their councils and local partners through much tougher times.
In this new world, there are no easy choices. But where choices have to be made, they are best made locally by elected representatives who are in daily contact with the people that they serve.
It is clear that councils will need to take a fresh look at everything that they and their partners do. As part of this fundamental review, there are choices to be made about engagement in trading activities and charging for services.
Trading and charging are important options on the menu of innovative ways of working expected to develop quickly over the coming months, including employee-led mutual partnerships, communities' right to bid to take over local state-run services and other ‘Big Society' approaches to decentralisation.
This updated guide - which takes account of the most recent rule changes - looks at the options councils currently have for trading and charging and at the experience that has been accumulating in local areas. It is the first in a series of ‘Tougher times' guides designed to help councillors work their way through the difficult choices and respond to the leadership task that lies before them.
While the chief focus is on options for income generation, the guide also looks at how trading and charging powers can be used to help support recession-hit local communities and to provide the public with greater choice.
We need to point out that this short guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law and, as ever, councils need to take their own legal and financial advice.
In particular, the Government is committed to introducing a new power of general competence, something which local government has long sought, which will be an advance on the 'wellbeing power' described in this guide and important for trading.
The contents of this guide apply only to England: different arrangements are in force in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
10 May 2012