Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ban on council prayers still in place?

Coming from the Wyre Forest Agenda where it appears our local council are still including prayers as an official part of the meeting despite the High Court ruling that they can't. Ah but it's okay as Eric Pickles has rode to the rescue by pushing forward the Localism Act 2011 which will restore the right to hold prayers; but does it?

Here's the key point in the Local Governments Act 1972:

Without prejudice to any powers exercisable apart from this section but subject to the provisions of this Act and any other enactment passed before or after this Act, a local authority shall have power to do any thing (whether or not involving the expenditure, borrowing or lending of money or the acquisition or disposal of any property or rights) which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of their functions.
To parse that down this is a power granted to councils with restrictions. Now to the new Localism Act 2011 that grants the council a general power to do that which an individual can:
If exercise of a pre-commencement power of a local authority is subject to restrictions, those restrictions apply also to exercise of the general power so far as it is overlapped by the pre-commencement power
where a:
“pre-commencement power” means power conferred by a statutory provision that—(a)is contained in this Act, or in any other Act passed no later than the end of the Session in which this Act is passed, or(b)is contained in an instrument made under an Act and comes into force before the commencement of section 1.

Everyone understand that?  Any restrictions in place to a power contained in a previous Act apply to the general power granted in this Act. Given that the Localism Act 2011 does not rescind the Local Government Act 1972; nor does it specifically amend section 111  then its power with restrictions still apply to the general power granted by this new Act.

In other words a council is still restricted only to those acts that "facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of their functions" which has been decided doesn't include prayer.