Petition scheme

Find out how to submit a petition.

Background

Subject to section 3 below, this scheme applies to all petitions submitted to the Council. Any petition that contains fewer than 50 signatures, or does not meet the guidelines within the scheme, will be deemed to be standard correspondence and receive a response within ten working days from the relevant director/service leader setting out what action the director/service leader intends to take in relation to the petition.

See Section 12 for submitting a petition in relation to Borough Council matters coming within the purview of the Guildford Joint Committee.

1. Petitions

1.1 The Council welcomes petitions and recognises that petitions are one way in which people can let us know their concerns. Anyone who lives, works or studies in the Borough may sign or organise a petition and trigger a response. This includes anyone under the age of 18.

1.2  All petitions submitted to the Council will receive a written acknowledgement from the Council within ten working days of receipt. This acknowledgement will set out what we plan to do with the petition.

1.3  E-petitions must be created, signed and submitted online through the Council's e-petitions facility. The Council will not accept e-petitions hosted by third parties (for example, Change.org), or accept as paper petitions information about e-signatories downloaded from third party e-petition hosts.

1.4  Alternatively, paper petitions can be sent to:

Democratic Services Manager,
Guildford Borough Council,
Millmead House,
Millmead,
GUILDFORD,
Surrey
GU2 4BB

2. What are the guidelines for submitting a petition?

2.1 Petitions submitted to the Council under this scheme must include:

  • a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition which must relate to the functions, powers, or duties of the Council. It should also state what lawful action the petitioners wish the Council to take;

  • the name and address (in a legible format) and signature of any person supporting the petition; and

  • contact details, including name, address, telephone number (and where possible, an email address) of the petition organiser.

2.2 The petition organiser is the person the Council will contact to explain how we will respond to the petition. The contact details of the petition organiser will not be placed on the Council's website.

2.3 If a petition does not follow the guidelines set out above, the Managing Director, in consultation with the lead councillor with responsibility for governance, may decide not to do anything further with it. In that case, we will write to the petition organiser to explain the reasons.

3. What types of petitions are excluded?

3.1 We will not take action on any petition which the Managing Director, in consultation with the lead councillor with responsibility for governance, considers to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate and will explain the reasons for this in our acknowledgement of the petition.

3.2 This petition scheme does not apply to:

  • any petition relating to a planning or licensing application, or
  • a statutory petition (for example requesting a referendum on having a directly elected mayor), or

  • a petition relating to a matter where there is already an existing recourse to a review or right of appeal, such as council tax banding and non-domestic rates, where other procedures apply. 

3.3 In addition, the scheme specifically excludes any petition on the same or similar topic as one that the Council has received and dealt with in the previous six months. The Council will acknowledge receipt of such a petition within 10 working days and include details of its response to the previous petition on the topic. Where the Council is still considering a petition on the same or similar topic, the new petition will be amalgamated with the first received petition.

3.4  Details of petitions affecting particular wards that have been excluded will be sent to the relevant councillors representing those wards.

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

4.1 An acknowledgement will be sent to the petition organiser within ten 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, except in cases where this would be inappropriate. Where the subject matter of the petition affects particular wards, the councillors representing those wards will be notified of the receipt of the petition.

4.2 We will write to the petition organiser at each stage of the petition's consideration. If the petition needs further investigation, we will tell you the steps we plan to take. Whenever possible we will also publish all correspondence relating to the petition (all personal details will be removed). 

5. How will the Council respond to my petition?

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 meeting of the Council or Executive

  • holding an inquiry into the matter

  • holding a public meeting

  • holding a meeting with petitioners or the petition organiser

  • undertaking research into the matter

  • writing to the petition organiser setting out the Council's views about the request in the petition

  • referring the petition to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for consideration

5.2 The type of response the Council provides may be dependent on the number of signatories to the petition. The table below summarises the Council's approach:

 

Number of signatories

Response

fewer than 50

Response from relevant director/service leader (treated as standard correspondence).

50 - 299

Response from relevant lead councillor.

At least 300

Referred to the Leader/ Executive for response.

At least 500

Referred for debate at a meeting of the full Council (see section 6).

At least 500

Senior officer(s) called to provide evidence at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (see section 7), where such action is requested in the petition.

 

5.3  If we can do what a petition asks for, the acknowledgement to the organiser may confirm that we have taken the action requested and the petition will be closed. If the petition has enough signatures to be referred to the Leader/Executive or to trigger a debate at a meeting of the full Council, or for a senior officer to give evidence at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, then the acknowledgment will confirm this and inform the organiser when and where the relevant meeting will take place.

5.4  Where the petition is referred to the relevant lead councillor for a response, the petition organiser will be invited to make a written statement in support of the petition.

5.5 Where the petition is referred to the Leader/Executive, the full Council or to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the petition organiser (or any person authorised by him/her) will, if they so wish, be given a period not exceeding five minutes to present the petition at the meeting and the petition will then be discussed by councillors. Councillors will also be afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the petition organiser. The petition organiser (or any person authorised by the petition organiser) will be granted a right of reply for a further period not exceeding five minutes at the end of the debate and before a final decision or vote is taken.

5.6  In presenting their petition, the petition organiser (or any person authorised by him/her) shall be permitted to use visual aids, subject to submission of such visual aids to the Democratic Services Manager by no later than 12 noon one working day before the meeting at which the petition is presented.

5.7  We will contact the petition organiser before the meeting to establish whether they wish to formally present the petition at the meeting in the manner described above.

5.8  In addition to these steps, the Council will consider all the specific actions it can potentially take on the issues highlighted in a petition. 

6. Full Council debates

6.1 If a petition contains 500 signatures or more, it will automatically be referred to the full Council for debate unless it is a petition asking for a senior council officer to give evidence at a meeting of the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee (see section 7 below).

6.2 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.

6.3 The Council will decide how to respond to the petition at the meeting. They may decide to support the action the petition requests, or not. A motion suggesting a formal response to the petition shall be proposed and seconded at the meeting and dealt with under the normal rules of debate, provided that any such motion must respond explicitly to the request in the petition i.e. that part of the petition which asks the Council to take some form of action. Alternatively, the Council may refer the matter to the Leader/ Executive or the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for further consideration. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of this decision.

7. Petitions asking senior officers to provide evidence

7.1 A petition may ask for a senior council officer to give evidence at a meeting of the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee about something for which the officer is responsible as part of their job, for example, it may ask a senior council officer to explain progress on an issue, or to explain the advice given to councillors to enable them to make a particular decision.

7.2  If the petition requests such action and contains at least 500 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

7.3   For the purpose of this scheme, senior officer is defined as one of the following:

  • the Managing Director,
  • any director, or

  • any service leader

7.4  Details of the names of these officers are set out in Part 7 of this Constitution. Petition organisers 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 lead councillor to attend the meeting.

7.5  Committee members will ask the questions at this meeting, but petition organisers will be able to suggest questions to the chairman of the committee by contacting the Democratic Services Manager up to seven working days before the meeting although the chairman will have discretion to accept any such questions received after this deadline.

8. E-petitions

8.1 The Council welcomes e-petitions which are created and submitted through our website. E-petitions will follow the same guidelines as paper petitions set out above.

8.2 E-petition organisers will need to provide us with their name, postal address and email address. They will also need to decide how long they would like their e-petition to be open for signatures, up to a maximum of 12 months.

8.3 When an e-petition is created, it may take five working days before it is published online. This is because we have to check that the content of the e-petition is suitable before it is made available for signature.

8.4 If the Managing Director, in consultation with the lead councillor with responsibility for governance, feels we cannot publish the e-petition for some reason, we will contact the e-petition organiser within this time to explain. The e-petition organiser will be able to change and resubmit their e-petition if they wish. If they do not do this within ten 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 Committee Services team. In the same way as a paper petition, the e-petition organiser will receive an acknowledgement within ten working days.

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 acknowledgment and response will also be published on our website.

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

9.1 All the e-petitions currently available for signature may be viewed on the Council's website.

9.2 Anyone who signs an e-petition will be asked to provide their name, postcode and a valid email address. When this information has been submitted an email will be sent to the email address provided. This email will include a link which the signatory must click on in order to confirm that the email address is valid. Once this step is complete the signatory's 'signature' will be added to the e-petition. 

10. What happens to my petition or e-petition following a formal response by the Council? 

10.1 Following a period of 21 days after the Council has responded formally, a paper petition will be destroyed, and all e-signatories on an e-petition will be erased, unless during that period, the petition organiser requests a review under section 11 below.

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

11.1 If a petition organiser feels that we have not dealt with their petition properly, they have the right to request that the steps that the Council has taken in response to the petition is reviewed by the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee. 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.

11.2 The petition organiser must exercise this right within 21 days of receipt of the Council's formal response to the petition.

11.3 The Council will endeavour to consider the review at the next available meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee although, on some occasions, this may not be possible and the review will then take place at the following meeting or at a special meeting. The petition organiser shall be invited to attend that meeting. The procedure for conducting the review at the meeting shall be as follows:

(a) The petition organiser (or any person authorised by them) shall be invited to address the Committee for no more than five minutes in respect of their request for review.

(b) Councillors to ask the petition organiser any questions relevant to the review arising from their statement to the Committee.

(c) The Committee to review the steps taken by the Council in responding to the petition and to consider whether the Council has dealt with the petition adequately. Dependent on whether the formal response to the petition was given by:

  • a director or service leader

  • a lead councillor, or

  • full Council

this may include asking the relevant director/service leader or relevant lead councillor to attend and answer questions from the Committee. 

(d) Prior to making a decision on the review, the petition organiser (or any person authorised by them) shall have a right of reply on the debate, for which they will be given five minutes.

(e) The Committee to formally determine the review - deciding either that the Council has dealt with the petition adequately or that it has not. If the latter, the Committee must then decide one of the following options:

  • (i) to investigate the matter further;

  • (ii) to make recommendations to the Leader/Executive; or

  • (iii) to arrange for the matter to be considered at a meeting of full Council.

11.4  The question as to whether implementation of any decisions pertinent to a petition under review by overview and scrutiny should be deferred pending completion of the review process shall be dealt with by the Managing Director on a case-by-case basis including, where necessary, convening special meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and/or full Council for this purpose.

11.5 Once the Committee has completed its review the petition organiser will be informed of the results within five working days.  The results of the review will also be published on our website.  Following the review, if the petition was a paper petition, it will be destroyed and, if an e-petition, all e-signatories will be erased.

12. Presenting Petitions to the Guildford Joint Committee

12.1. Any member of the public who lives, works or studies in the Guildford Borough area may present a petition, containing 30 or more signatures or at the Chairman's discretion, relating to a matter within the terms of reference of the Joint Committee. The presentation of a petition on the following business will not be allowed:

(a) matters which are "confidential" or "exempt" under Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972;

(b) planning applications; and

(c) matters in relation to a public rights of way under consideration by the Joint Committee.

12.2. A spokesperson for the petitioners may address the Joint Committee on the petition for up to 3 minutes or longer if agreed by the Chairman. Discussion on a petition at the meeting is at the Chairman's discretion. The petition may be referred to the next appropriate meeting of the Joint Committee or to the SCC Cabinet, Cabinet Member, GBC Executive or relevant committee of either SCC or GBC at the discretion of the Chairman.

12.3. Notice must be given in writing to the Community Partnerships Team at least 14 days before the meeting. Alternatively, the petition can be submitted on-line through SCC's or GBC's e-petitions website as long as the minimum number of signatures has been reached 14 days before the meeting.

12.4. No more than three petitions may be presented at any one meeting of the Joint Committee unless agreed otherwise by the Chairman.

12.5. The Community Partnerships Team may amalgamate within the first received petition other petitions of like effect on the same subject.

12.6. The presentation of a petition on the same or similar topic as one presented in the last six months may only be permitted at the Chairman's discretion.