Petitions - Frequently Asked Questions
Who may submit a petition?
Anyone who lives, works or studies in the local authority area, including under 18’s, can sign or organise a petition and trigger a response.
What are the guidelines for submitting a petition?
Petitions submitted to the Council must include:
- a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition. It should state what action the petitioners wish the Council to take.
- the name and address and signature of any person supporting the petition.
Petitions should be accompanied by contact details, including an address, for the petition organiser. This is the person we will contact to explain how we will respond to the petition.
The contact details of the petition organiser will not be placed on the website. If the petition does not identify a petition organiser, we will contact signatories to the petition to agree who should act as the petition organiser.
Petitions which are considered by the Council’s Monitoring Officer to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate will not be accepted. In the period immediately before an election or referendum we may need to deal with your petition differently – if this is the case we will explain the reasons and discuss the revised timescale which will apply. If a petition does not follow the guidelines set out above, the council may decide not to do anything further with it. In that case, we will write to you to explain the reasons.
What will the council do when it receives my petition?
An acknowledgement will be sent to the petition organiser within 10 working days of receiving the petition. It will let them know what we plan to do with the petition and when they can expect to hear from us again. It will also be published on our website.
If we can do what your petition asks for, the acknowledgement may confirm that we have taken the action requested and the petition will be closed. If the petition has enough signatures to trigger a Council debate, or a senior officer giving evidence, then the acknowledgment will confirm this and tell you when and where the meeting will take place. If the petition needs more investigation, we will tell you the steps we plan to take.
To ensure that people know what we are doing in response to the petitions we receive the details of all the petitions submitted to us will be published on our website, except in cases where this would be inappropriate. Whenever possible we will also publish all correspondence relating to the petition (all personal details will be removed). When you sign an e-petition you can elect to receive this information by email. We will not send you anything which is not relevant to the e-petition you have signed, unless you choose to receive other emails from us.
What subjects will not be considered?
If the petition applies to a planning or licensing application, is a statutory petition (for example requesting a referendum on having an elected mayor), or on a matter where there is already an existing right of appeal, such as council tax banding and non-domestic rates, other procedures apply and your request will not be dealt with under this petitions scheme.
Further information on all these procedures and how you can express your views can be found below:
We will not take action on any petition which we consider to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate and will explain the reasons for this in our acknowledgement of the petition.
The Council’s Monitoring Officer will decide whether a petition falls into this category following consultation with the Council Chairman although all Members of the Council will be notified that the petition request has been received and the subject matter.
How will the council respond to petitions?
Our response to a petition will depend on what a petition asks for and how many people have signed it, but may include one or more of the following:
- taking the action requested in the petition
- considering the petition at a council meeting
- holding an inquiry into the matter
- undertaking research into the matter
- holding a public meeting
- holding a consultation
- holding a meeting with petitioners
- referring the petition for consideration by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee*
- calling a referendum
- writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition
*Overview and Scrutiny Committees are Committees of Councillors who are responsible for scrutinising the work of the Council – in other words, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has the power to hold the council’s decision makers to account.
In addition to these steps, the Council will consider all the specific actions it can potentially take on the issues highlighted in a petition. The table below gives some examples.
Alcohol related crime and disorder
If your petition is about crime or disorder linked to alcohol consumption, the Council will, among other measures, consider the case for placing restrictions on public drinking in the area by establishing a designated public place order or, as a last resort, imposing an alcohol disorder zone. When an alcohol disorder zone is established the licensed premises in the area where alcohol related trouble is being caused are required to contribute to the costs of extra policing in that area. The Council’s response to your petition will set out the steps we intend to take and the reasons for taking this approach.
Anti-social behaviour (ASB)
As the elected representatives of your local area, as social landlord and licensing authority, the Council has a significant role to play in tackling anti-social behaviour. The Council, in conjunction with our partners in the local crime and disorder partnership have set out minimum service standards for responding to issues of anti-social behaviour.
When responding to petitions on ASB, we will consider in consultation with our local partners, all the options available to us including the wide range of powers and mechanisms we have to intervene as part of our role as social landlord and licensing authority. For example, we will work with the neighbourhood policing team in the affected area to identify what action might be taken including what role CCTV might play, consider identifying a dedicated contact within the council to liaise with the community and neighbourhood partners on issues of ASB in the area in question and, where appropriate, we will alert the crime and disorder reduction partnership and Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee to the issues highlighted in the petition.
If your petition is about something over which the Council has no direct control (for example the local railway or hospital) we will consider making representations on behalf of the community to the relevant body. The Council works with a large number of local partners and where possible will work with these partners to respond to your petition. If we are not able to do this for any reason (for example if what the petition calls for conflicts with Council Policy), then we will set out the reasons for this to you.
If your petition is about something that a different Council is responsible for we will give consideration to what the best method is for responding to it. This might consist of simply forwarding the petition to the other council, but could involve other steps. In any event we will always notify you of the action we have taken.
Full Council Debates
If a petition contains more than 250 signatures it will be debated by the Full Council unless it is a petition asking for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting. This means that the issue raised in the petition will be discussed at a meeting which all Councillors can attend. The Council will endeavour to consider the petition at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will then take place at the following meeting. The petition organiser will be given a maximum of 10 minutes to present the petition. The petition can then be debated by Councillors for a maximum of 30 minutes, including the presentation from the petition organiser.
The Council will decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting.
They may decide to take the action the petition requests, not to take the action requested for reasons put forward in the debate, or to commission further investigation into the matter, for example by a relevant Committee. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of this decision. This confirmation will also be published on our website.
Your petition may ask for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting about something for which the officer is responsible as part of their job. For example, your petition may ask a senior council officer to explain progress on an issue, or to explain the advice given to elected members to enable them to make a particular decision.
If your petition contains at least 50 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. A list of the senior staff that can be called to give evidence can be found here. You should be aware that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee may decide that it would be more appropriate for another officer to give evidence instead of any officer named in the petition – for instance if the named officer has changed jobs. The Committee may also decide to call the relevant Councillor to attend the meeting.
How do I create an E-petition?
The council welcomes e-petitions which are created and submitted through our website: http://richmondshire.firmstep.com/. E-petitions must follow the same guidelines as paper petitions.
The petition organiser will need to provide us with their name, postal address and email address. You will also need to decide how long you would like your petition to be open for signatures. Most petitions run for six months, but you can choose a shorter or longer timeframe, up to a maximum of 12 months.
When you create an e-petition, it may take five working days before it is published online. This is because we have to check that the content of your petition is suitable before it is made available for signature.
If we feel we cannot publish your petition for some reason, we will contact you within this time to explain. You will be able to change and resubmit your petition if you wish. If you do not do this within 10 working days, a summary of the petition and the reason why it has not been accepted will be published under the ‘rejected petitions’ section of the website.
A petition acknowledgement and response will be emailed to everyone who has signed the e-petition and elected to receive this information. The acknowledgment and response will also be published on this website.
How do I ‘sign’ an e-petition?
You can see all the e-petitions currently available for signature here http://richmondshire.firmstep.com/.
When you sign an e-petition you will be asked to provide your name, your postcode and a valid email address. When you have submitted this information you will be sent an email to the email address you have provided. This email will include a link which you must click on in order to confirm the email address is valid. Once this step is complete your ‘signature’ will be added to the petition. People visiting the e-petition will be able to see your name in the list of those who have signed it but your contact details will not be visible.
What can I do if I feel my petition has not been dealt with properly?
If you feel that we have not dealt with your petition properly, the petition organiser has the right to request that the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee review the steps that the Council has taken in response to your petition. It is helpful to everyone, and can improve the prospects for a review if the petition organiser gives a short explanation of the reasons why the Council’s response is not considered to be adequate.
The Committee will endeavour to consider your request at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will take place at the following meeting. Should the Committee determine we have not dealt with your petition adequately it may use any of its powers to deal with the matter. These powers include instigating an investigation, and arranging for the matter to be considered at a meeting of the Full Council.
Once the review has been considered the petition organiser will be informed of the results within 5 working days. The results of the review will also be published on our website.
Once the appeal has been considered the petition organiser will be informed of the results within 5 working days. The results of the review will also be published on our website.