Petitions scheme

1. Introduction

1.1 This is the Petitions Scheme for Elmbridge Borough Council made under Section 11(1) of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act, 2009. The Scheme was approved at the full meeting of the Council on 28 July 2010 and is available on the Council's website.

1.2 The Council welcomes petitions, both in paper form or by way of the e-Petition facility, and recognises that petitions are one way in which people can let us know their concerns. The Council welcomes petitions from all people resident, working or studying in the Borough. The Council provides a number of ways in which petitions may be considered, depending on the subject, the actions sought and the number of signatories. The purpose of this Scheme is to establish a clear process for petitions submitted to the Council to be handled in accordance with the relevant legislation. All petitions sent or presented to Elmbridge Borough Council will receive an acknowledgement from the Council within 10 working days of receipt. This acknowledgement will set out what we plan to do with the petition.

1.3 Before considering whether or not to raise a petition to Elmbridge Borough Council, you may want to discuss your issue with your local Ward Councillor who may be able to help you with it or explain how to make representations on a particular subject to the right person at the Borough Council. Details on how to contact your local Borough Councillor are available on the Council's website.

2. Guidelines for submitting a petition

2.1 Petitions submitted to the Council must:

  • set out a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition. It should state what action the petitioners wish the Council to take;
  • be initiated by a Petition Organiser whose contact details, including address, have been supplied to the Council;
  • include the name and address and signature of any person supporting the petition;
  • relate to the Council's functions or to wider issues applicable to the areas served by the County Council;
  • not be abusive, defamatory, frivolous or vexatious;
  • not relate to specific planning or licensing matters, for which other established processes exist; legal proceedings; contract or tendering procedures or matters relating to individual Members of the Council which are the subject of referral to the Audit and Standards Committee;
  • obtain a minimum of 50 valid signatories, including verifiable details that they live, work or study in the Council area. Signatures from others (e.g. tourists) may be considered as valid if relevant to the issue of the petition;
  • not be a duplicate or near-duplicate or a similar petition that has been received or submitted within the previous 12 month period and will be taken in order of the earliest received.

2.2 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.

2.3 Please note that in the six weeks before an election, local authorities cannot publish any material which may support any Political party or a point of view which may be associated with any Political party - 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.

3. How to submit a Petition

3.1 Petitions may be submitted to the Council in the following ways:

  • in paper format;
  • electronically by e-mail;
  • electronically, through the Council's own e-Petition facility.

Paper petitions can be sent to:
Head of Executive and Member Services
Elmbridge Borough Council
Civic Centre
High Street
Surrey KT10 9SD
Telephone: 01372 474173

Or / and online e-Petitions can be created, signed and submitted online.

3.2 In every case, a Petitions Organiser must identify his / her self and provide such details as well as assist the Council or other service providers to make contact with regard to the submitted petition.

4. What will the Council do when it receives my petition?

4.1 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. In respect of e-petitions, the acknowledgement will also be published on our website.

4.2 If we can do what your petition asks for, the acknowledgement may confirm that we have taken the action requested or that a specific course of action has already been agreed to be taken and the petition will be closed. If, when received, the petition has enough signatures to trigger a debate at a full Meeting of the Council, or a senior officer giving evidence, then the acknowledgement 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.

4.3 A petition may not relate to planning or licensing application matters; legal proceedings; contract or tendering procedures or matters relating to individual Members of the Council which are the subject of referral to the Audit and Standards Committee; 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, as other established procedures apply.

4.4 To ensure the Council understands the level of local support for a petition, it reserves the right to seek to verify each signature appended to a petition. This can be significant when establishing whether a petition has obtained the requisite number of signatures to trigger specific processes.

4.5 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. When you sign an e-petition you can elect to receive information by e-mail. We will not send you anything that is not relevant to the e-petition you have signed, unless you choose to receive other e-mails from us.

4.6 In the event that a petition is in response to an invitation from the Council for comments as part of a consultation on a particular matter, for example, on a proposed policy affecting the Borough, a petition in this regard will be reported to the meeting, person or body with responsibility for taking the decision. 

5. How will the Council respond to petitions?

5.1 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 full Meeting of the Council [minimum of 3,900 signatures]
  • submission of petition to Cabinet meeting or Individual Cabinet Member Decision Making, as appropriate and also having regard to Executive functions [minimum of 50 signatures];
  • referring the petition for consideration by the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, requesting a senior officer to give evidence [minimum 2,600 signatures];
  • holding an inquiry into the matter;
  • undertaking research into the matter;
  • holding a public meeting;
  • holding a consultation;
  • holding a meeting with petitioners;
  • calling a referendum;
  • writing to the petition organiser setting out the Council's views about the request in the petition;
  • in matters that are dealt with by delegated authority, the responsible officer would respond to the petition.

5.2 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. You can find more information on the range of services for which the Council is responsible on the Councils Website.

5.3 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. Petitions which relate to Surrey County Council will be forwarded to the County Council to be dealt with under its Petition Scheme. In any event we will always notify the petition organiser of the action we have taken.

5.4 Where the petition does not have the prescribed number of signatures to trigger the petitioner's intention of a debate at a full Meeting of the Council or Senior Officer attendance at a Committee (see below), the Head of Executive and Member Services will determine the most appropriate course of action following discussion as necessary with the relevant Cabinet Member and/or Officer responsible for the service which is the subject of the petition.

6. Full Meeting of the Council debates

6.1 If a petition contains more than 3,900 signatures it will be debated by a full Meeting of the Council unless it is a petition asking for a senior council officer to give evidence at a meeting that is open to the public. This means that the issue raised in the petition will be discussed at a meeting that 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 five minutes to address the Council on the subject matter of the petition. The relevant Cabinet Portfolio Holder will then be given five minutes for a right of reply and the petition will then be discussed by the Council for a maximum of 30 minutes. The relevant Cabinet Portfolio Holder has a further right of reply, for no more than five minutes, at the end of the debate on the matter. 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. Where the issue is one on which the Council's Executive, namely the Cabinet, are required to make the final decision, the Council will decide whether to make recommendations to inform that decision. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of the decision as soon as practicable following the decision having been made. This confirmation will also be published on the Council's website.

7. Officer evidence

7.1 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.

7.2 If your petition contains at least 2,600 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a 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 namely, the Chief Executive, Strategic Director of Resources, Strategic Director of Services or Head of Division. The Council reserves the right to substitute a more appropriate 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. Committee Members will ask the questions at this meeting, but you will be able to suggest questions to the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee by e-mailing at least three clear working days before the meeting. 

8. E-petitions

8.1 The Council welcomes e-Petitions which are created and submitted through our website. 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. Unless advised to the contrary, an e-petition will normally be open for signatures for 90 days from the day it is published on-line.

8.2 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. As each e-petition is published, the Council will log each one and publish details on its website.

8.3 The Council requires signatories to append their e-mail addresses and their postcodes; failure to provide this information may lead to the signature not being counted. Individual contact details will not be visible to others on the Council's e-petition facility.

8.4 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.

8.5 When an e-petition has closed for signature, it will automatically be submitted to the Head of Executive and Member Services to process. In the same way as a paper petition, you will receive an acknowledgement within 10 working days. If your petition has the minimum number of signatures required for a full Meeting of the Council debate, or for an officer to be called to give evidence, please also see the relevant sections above.

8.6 A petition acknowledgement and response will be emailed to everyone who has signed the e-petition and elected to receive this information. The acknowledgement and response will also be published on this website.

9. How do I 'sign' an e-petition?

9.1 You can see all the e-petitions currently available for signature online.

9.2 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.

10. What can I do if I feel my petition has not been dealt with properly?

10.1 If you feel that we have not dealt with your petition properly, the petition organiser has the right to request a review of the steps that the Council has taken in response to the petition. Such a request should be made in writing within 28 days of the dispatch of the formal response to the petition organiser, providing a short explanation of the reasons why the Council's response is not considered to be adequate.

10.2 The Council will determine the relevant Committee to carry out the review, usually the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. 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, making recommendations to the Council's Cabinet or relevant Cabinet Member as appropriate or arranging for the matter to be considered at a full Meeting of the Council.

10.3 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.

11. Procedure for Deputations

11.1 What is a deputation?
A deputation is a group of at least three people, who live or work within the Borough who wish to express their views on a particular topic at a meeting. A spokesperson may address the Cabinet, or a Committee for a maximum of three minutes. Other members of the deputation may attend as observers.

11.2 Which Committee?
Cabinet and Committees may receive a deputation on any matter within their terms of reference, except in the case of Planning Committee, when deputations shall not be received in respect of development control matters which are dealt with under separate guidelines.

11.3 How to get a deputation heard by the Cabinet or a Committee
Deputations shall be made in writing, signed by a minimum of three people, and delivered to the Chief Executive no less than 10 clear working days prior to the meeting they wish to address. This requirement is reduced to 3 clear working days notice if the deputation has arisen as a result of viewing an agenda and directly relates to one of the agenda items.

11.4 Procedure for deputations
Any confidential subject matter in a deputation or if a deputation relates to an exempt item, for which the press and public are not allowed to attend, the deputation will be heard by the Cabinet or Committee in public, the ensuing debate will then be taken in confidential session, excluding the petitioners, press and public.
Cabinet or a Committee will determine whether to fully debate the deputation or refer it to a more appropriate arena for consideration and report.

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