Local Councils

New guidance

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. The information on this page reflects changes to the law.

Services and public functions carried out by local councils in their area range from emptying your bins to setting and collecting your council tax. The way these services and functions are organised and exactly what each service provides will be different in different areas, but the sort of services local councils are likely to provide include:

  • children’s and young people’s services
  • election services
  • environmental services
  • leisure services
  • libraries
  • planning, and
  • regeneration.

There are separate guides for the following services which local councils may be involved in:

  • education
  • healthcare and social care
  • housing, and
  • transport.

Children’s and young people’s services

These services ensure the health, safety, wellbeing, protection and development of children and young people. They include: 

  • child protection
  • ‘looked after’ children’s services
  • Children’s Centres
  • adoption and fostering
  • support for young offenders.

Election services

Local councils have to organise local elections, help run national elections and make sure that local residents who are entitled to vote have the chance to do so. 

This includes registering people to vote and running polling stations on election day.

A person’s nationality may make a difference to which elections they are allowed to vote in without this being unlawful discrimination because of race.

Environmental services

These services help to make our local communities clean and attractive places to live. They do this by:

  • organising rubbish collections and recycling facilities
  • maintaining local streets and roads for all users
  • maintaining road crossings, parking facilities, signs and public spaces such as parks.

Leisure services

Councils often run leisure centres, swimming pools, gyms and other sports facilities, and also encourage people to take part in sport.

Planning services

When someone wants to make changes to a building, or the purpose for which a building is used, or to put up a new building, they will probably have to ask the local council for permission to do this. If someone does one of these things without permission when they should have asked for it, the local council will decide if they have to put everything back the way it was.

This will be done by staff working in planning services.


‘Regeneration’ means work to improve local areas. Regeneration can be social, economic and/or physical. This work can include:

  • helping local people to take more control over decisions that affect their community and neighbourhood
  • improving homes and the physical environment
  • supporting business growth in the area
  • improving social cohesion
  • tackling poor employment opportunities.

What equality law means for these activities

Generally, in the way they deliver their services and carry out their public functions, local councils are covered by equality law.

That means you can expect a local council (and the people who work for it or take action for it) not to:

  • unlawfully discriminate against you because of a protected characteristic, or
  • harass or victimise you,

and to:

  •  make reasonable adjustments if you are a disabled person so that you can access the service as far as is reasonable on the same terms as non-disabled people.

More information

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