Old by-laws to be made easier to abolish

Fish and chips
Image caption Frying fish is classified as an "offensive trade" in Gloucester

Plans to make it easier for English local authorities to abolish outdated by-laws and create new ones will be outlined later by the government.

It will mean councils being able to sweep away bizarre regulations, such as rules on carpet-beating in Blackpool, or frying fish in Gloucester, without first needing Whitehall approval.

Instead, town halls will simply have to consult residents.

Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said it was all about devolving powers.

Gloucester City Council has unearthed 60 old by-laws that it wants to revoke and not replace.

'Mockery of law'

In addition to 1968 regulations on frying fish and "other offensive trades", it wants to call time on a 1947 by-law regarding the cleaning of ash pits and cesspools.

It also wants to get rid of a 1911 ruling requiring domestic servants to register with the council.

Mr Shapps said the government wanted to put power back into the hands of local people.

"Clearly an 1887 law about beating carpets in Blackpool is no longer followed, in which case, let's make it easier to scrap," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Of course there are many other things to do but having pointless laws there that no-one follows makes a mockery of the law, the law becomes an ass. Let's get rid of those things, and this government wants to hand the power to do those things to local communities, which surely can't be a bad thing.

"We believe that rather than everything having to revert to Whitehall, 'the minister knows best', instead, local communities should have those powers, and that's what we're going to give them today."

Mr Shapps added that he wanted members of the public to be able to contact their local council with any concerns, so the local authority could consider new by-laws, again with no ministerial involvement.

Other local by-laws that could be revoked include a 1905 ruling relating to the transport of horse carcasses in what is today the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and a 1956 rule that prohibits the drying of clothes in various parks in Whitstable.

By-laws relating to the use of dickey straps - the leather straps which hold the driving box of horse-drawn carriages in place - also look set to be scrapped in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron backed plans by councils in Greater Manchester to use by-laws to ban the sale of cheap alcohol.

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