How to petition your local council

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How to petition your local council

Do you want to show your council how important an issue is to you and your local community? One way is through a local petition. Read our guide to find out how you can effectively petition your council to improve cycling.

 

What does the law say about local petitions?

Not much. The law in England & Wales no longer requires local authorities to have a petition scheme, and the law in Scotland never has.  

How do I find out what my council’s approach to petitions is?

Try legal and democratic services (or equivalent) section of your council’s website, or search either for  ‘petitions’, ‘e-petitions’ or ‘petitions scheme’ is a good start, or for ‘get involved’/’have your say’ or similar.

What if my council doesn’t support a petitions scheme?

Take it up with your local councillor. Stress that lots of councils embrace them because they help alert elected members and officers to local concerns.

Where do I start?

  1. Find and read your local authority’s guidance.
  1. Ring or email a council contact – an officer or a councillor (see full guide for points you may want to clarify).

Am I an eligible petitioner?

If you live, work or study in the area, then you probably are – but check the council’s guidance.

How do I create a petition and what formats can I use?

E-petitions hosted on a council’s website

Around half of local authorities in England and Wales have an e-petitiion facility, with some authorities in Scotland also offering them.

If you’re using a council’s electronic facility, creating your petition is usually simple and self-explanatory, but you’ll probably have to register as a site user.

The council should acknowledge your petition either accept it and publish it on their website, or tell you why not.

E-petitions hosted on another platform

Some councils without an e-petition scheme explicitly refer potential petitioners to alternative platforms.

Paper

Most councils offer advice on how to submit paper petitions and/or will supply a template that you can print off.

What can I petition them about?

Generally speaking, you are advised NOT to petition about:

  • Planning, licensing and other matters with their own procedures.
  • Decisions taken by the council recently (they’ll specify the time period)
  • Matters similar to those covered in other petitions recently (they’ll specify the time period).
  • Matters concerning individuals (elected members/officers etc)
  • Breaches of codes of practice (dealt with in other ways)
  • Matters subject to any current court proceedings
  • Matters subject to a formal complaint or local ombudsman complaint
  • Commercially sensitive material

Who can sign it?
Almost always, councils stipulate that signatories must live, work or study in the area.

How many signatures do I need?

You may need a minimum number of signatures to render your petition valid.

Beyond that number, the more signatures you collect, the more substantial your council’s response is likely to be. There’s often a set scale, ranging from simply taking note to a full council debate.

Promoting your petition

Promoting your petition is entirely down to you and your supporters. Use all the channels you can think of to attract signatories:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Community websites
  • Local discussion forums
  • Social media
  • Newsletters
  • Local newspapers

What will the council do?

Usually, councils who publish guidance outline a range of actions. These are the most common:

  • Take no action and tell you why
  • Officially note your petition and leave it at that
  • Forward your petition to the relevant officer/ward councillor/committee chair for a response
  • Commission evidence/report from senior officer(s) to present to an appropriate committee
  • Meet with lead petitioners
  • Invite you or your nominee to address a council meeting
  • Refer the matter to a relevant/partner organisation with or without a recommendation (e.g. railway station)
  • Public meeting
  • Public inquiry
  • Debate at a cabinet/ council meeting
  • Just do what you’ve asked!

What can I do if I’m unhappy with the way my council has responded?

Most of the councils who produce detailed guidance will outline what you can do if you’re not satisfied with the way they’ve handled your petition.

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