Powers and duties

Local authorities have a number of functions set out in various powers and duties. The distinction between the two is very important when considering what a local authority is required to do and what it may do.

  • A power authorises a local authority to do something, but the authority is not under an obligation to use the power. Typical statutory wording would be “the local authority may”
  • A duty requires a local authority to do something. The local authority does not have a choice. Typical statutory wording would be “the local authority must” and “the local authority shall”.

The law on SNN in England and Wales is complex. There are several legislative schemes in force, which are identified below. It is important to check which scheme applies to the authority:

  • in London there is only one scheme in force.
  • outside London, there is a national (England and Wales) scheme for numbering (but not naming) buildings, and a variety of schemes for naming and re-naming streets. The picture is further complicated by Local Acts that may apply instead of one of the national schemes.

Outside London, and where a Local Act does not apply, local authorities should have formally adopted the legislative schemes they will use to conform to the requirements of the Local Government Act 1972. A key document to find is the resolution by the authority for adopting a particular legislative scheme.

Once the authority is clear on which legislative scheme applies, all decisions must be made in accordance with the local authority’s constitution, including the scheme of delegation. This will be covered in more detail in the Governance section of this Code of Practice.

A review of the legal framework for SNN was commissioned from Anthony Collins Solicitors by GeoPlace. A table of the legislation and its impact on local authorities was produced as part of this review. To view the table see Legislation Review