Community Right to Challenge

The Community Right to Challenge, introduced as part of the Localism Act, allows local groups that are interested in taking over the running of a Council service to express an interest to their Council. It enables communities to challenge to take over local services that they think they can run differently and better. This may be the whole service or part of a service. More information on other Community Rights

What is the Community Right to Challenge?

The right gives a relevant body the power to challenge and take over the provision of a relevant local service. Councils must respond to this challenge and consider the positive impact the proposal may have on the community. If the proposal is turned down the Council must publish its reasons for doing so.

Can anyone use the right to challenge a Council service?

No, only a relevant body can make an Expression of Interest under the right. A relevant body is:

  • A Parish or Town Council
  • A voluntary or community group
  • A body of persons or a trust which is established for charitable purposes only
  • Two or more Harlow Council employees
  • Any other person or body the Secretary of State may designate by Regulations.

List of contracts

Please visit the Contracts Database for East of England website for details of the Council’s current contracts to which this provision may apply.

Are any services exempt?

The Community Right to Challenge applies to all services currently provided by or on behalf of the Council, but certain exemptions do apply. The Expression of Interest must relate to the provision of, or assisting in the provision of, a relevant service, which is a service currently provided by or on behalf of the Council. There are some excluded services which are:

  • Services in partnership with NHS bodies, or NHS bodies on behalf of the authority (until 1 April 2014).
  • A service to a named person with complex individual or social care needs; or
  • A service which requires the exercise of a statutory power which cannot be delegated, e.g. setting Council Tax or determination of a planning application cannot be undertaken by anyone other than the local authority.

An Expression of Interest can relate to management or maintenance of parks or playing fields, paddling pools, refuse or recycling, on or off street parking, leisure centres or back office services.

Consultation can be undertaken during the contract commissioning with interested parties, the decision on what services are provided or the location of such remains a function of the Council therefore the Community Right to Challenge does not apply.

When can an Expression of Interest be made?

The legislation allows for a relevant body to make an Expression of Interest at any time. However the local authority can specify periods in which an Expression of Interest in respect of a particular relevant service may be submitted.

Harlow Council has specified the period for the submission of Expressions of Interests between 1 April to 30 June each year. Exceptions to this are services where an existing contractual obligation is in place.

How do I make an Expression of Interest?

You can make an Expression of Interest by completing an Expression of Interest (EOI) form using the guidance provided and submitting it to the Head of Governance.

  • Right to Challenge flow chart (pdf)
    Chart showing the process for assessing an expression of interest.
  • Expression of Interest (EOI) form and guidance notes (pdf)
    The Expression of Interest form requires that you provide details of:
    • Your organisation
    • The service you want to deliver e.g. on your own or in partnership
    • Evidence of your financial and organisational capability to demonstrate that you have the capacity to participate in any subsequent procurement exercise (you will need to provide sufficient information to satisfy the Council that you will be capable of providing or assisting in providing the service on the Expression of Interest Form by the time the procurement exercise takes place)
    • How your proposal will promote or improve the social, economic or environmental wellbeing of the area, and what measures you plan to put in place to demonstrate these benefits.

What happens after an Expression of Interest is submitted?

You will receive notification of receipt of your EOI form within 30 calendar days of the close of the specified period for the submission of Expressions of Interest.

If the EOI form is correctly completed you should hear within 90 calendar days depending on whether the service is subject to an existing contract or not.

If there is something wrong with the form you be contacted within 14 calendar days of receipt of the EOI form.

What happens if a challenge is accepted?

If an Expression of Interest is accepted then the Council will run an open procurement exercise for that service. This procurement exercise is open to other organisations besides the group/organisation that originally expressed an interest. The Council will follow its procurement rules, applicants will have to bid under the procurement exercise against any relevant bodies and commercial organisations. More information on Council procurement

Can a challenged be declined?

There are ten ground on which a challenge can be declined.

  1. That the Expression of Interest does not meet the statutory requirements, because it is not from a relevant body or for a relevant service.
  2. That the supporting information is inadequate.
  3. That any member of the body making the bid or their consortium, is not suitable to deliver the service.  Which could include past conduct, or financial instability or not possessing the necessary skills.
  4. That the authority had already taken a formal decision not to continue to provide the service. An Expression of Interest cannot be used to challenge the decision of the authority to cease provision of facilities or services.
  5. That providing the service in isolation would result in a loss of integration with NHS services to the detriment of users of the integrated service.
  6. That the service is already subject to a procurement process.
  7. That the authority is in negotiations with a third party for the provision of the service.
  8. That the authority has already published its intention to consider the provision of the service by two or more employees.
  9. That the Expression of Interest is trivial or vexatious; and
  10. That the acceptance of the Expression of Interest is likely to cause a breach of law or statutory duty.


The Localism Act requires a local authority take into account when deciding or not to accept an Expression of Interest whether it would improve or promote the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of the area, though this not a separate ground on which to reject an application.

If the proposal is turned down the Council must publish its reasons for doing so.

There is discretion for the Council to accept an Expression of Interest even if it does fall within one of the grounds if it believes the area would benefit from a procurement exercise.

How do I find out more?

Further details about the Communities Right to Challenge are available from the Government’s My Community Website.

You can contact the Head of Governance at the Council for more information.

Head of Governance
Civic Centre
The Water Gardens
CM20 1WG

or email: