Our petition policy
1.1 Braintree District Council (the Council) values the opinion of the people within its District. The petition process allows members of the public to have direct influence on the democratic process and to raise concerns that are important to them.
1.2 A petition is defined as a communication in writing or using an electronic facility which is signed by the appropriate number of qualifying people. In order to fall under this Policy, the petition must have at least 30 signatories.
2. The Petition Organiser
2.1 The Petition Organiser is the person who submits the petition to the Council. If the petition is compiled by an organisation, then they must ensure that they provide the contact details of the relevant person with who the Council can communicate with during its consideration of the petition.
2.2 The Council recommends that, before starting a petition, the Petition Organiser checks with the local District Councillor as they will be able to advise whether the Council is already acting on the matter and whether the Council is the most appropriate body to receive the petition.
2.3 It is the Petition Organisers responsibility to ensure that the petition complies with the requirements set out within this Policy and that those signing the petition are aware that the Council will publish the petition in full on its website once it has been submitted to the Council. In obtaining the signatories and submitting the petition to the Council, the Petition Organiser is confirming that they have consent from each signatory for the publication of their information.
2.4 A Member of the Council cannot start a petition or be designated as the Petition Organiser.
3. The Petition
3.1 A petition may be started by any person who lives, works or learns within the administrative boundaries of Braintree.
3.2 The petition must have a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition and set out the action the petitioners wish the Council to take.
3.3 A petition may be submitted on:
(a) Issues relating to the Councils responsibilities; or
(b) Issues which affect the Braintree District or communities within the District, provided the Council is in a position to exercise a degree of influence.
3.4 A petition can request that:
(a) the Council takes action or ceases taking action; or
(b) a matter be considered by the Chairman of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee.
3.5 A petition can be submitted to the Council by sending it direct to the Governance Team, at Causeway House, Bocking End, Braintree, Essex, CM7 9HB or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3.6 In addition you can start an e-petition using the Councils website. The Council can only act upon the petition when it is closed and cannot act upon on-going or ‘rolling’ petitions. In establishing an e-petition the Petition Organiser will be required to indicate the period of time the e-petition will be open for. The Council recommend that a period of at least 4 weeks is used.
3.7 It is important that the petition is identifiable, and you may wish to design and print your own petition. However, it is important to remember that people must understand what they are signing. Therefore a petition should include:
(a) the name and contact details of the Petition Organiser (email and telephone numbers provided will not be published by the Council);
(b) a clear, concise statement covering the subject of the petition;
(c) a statement explaining what action the petitioners wish the Council to take; and
(d) the name, address and signature of the persons supporting the petition.
4. Who can sign a petition?
4.1 The Council will accept a petition if it is signed by people who live within the administrative boundaries of Braintree and who are recorded on the electoral register. Accordingly the full name and address must be provided by the signatory.
4.2 Any Member of the Council wishing to sign a petition should seek advice from the Governance Team before signing the petition.
5. Petition Thresholds
5.1 How the Council deal with a petition will largely be determined by how many signatures the petition contains and the subject matter.
(a) A Petition signed by between 30 and 999 people:
The Performance Management Scrutiny Committee will consider the petition and shall:
(i) determine the Petition in accordance with paragraph 7;
(ii) Refer the petition to a Chief Officer for determination; or
(iii) Refer the petition to a Cabinet Member for determination.
(b) Petitions signed by between 1000 and 1,999 people:
The petition will be considered at a meeting of Cabinet and determined in accordance with paragraph 7.
(c) Petitions signed by 2000 or more people:
The petition will be considered at a meeting of the Full Council and determined in accordance with paragraph 7.
(d) Petitions requesting a Chief Officer gives evidence
Any petition requiring a Chief Officer to give evidence at a public meeting of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee must have at least 1000 signatures. The petition will be considered by the Chairman of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee in the first instance and will determine whether the petition should be considered by the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee and the Chief Officer should be called to give evidence.
6. Petition Progression
6.1 All petitions will be acknowledged by the Council within 10 working days of receipt and the Petition Organiser will be kept informed throughout the Councils consideration of the petition and any action that will be taken.
6.2 The Council will then carry out a validation process, which will review the petition, the action the petition is seeking and verify the signatures to ensure that they meet the criteria set out in this Policy. The verification of the signatures will be based on the information provided within the petition and the Council will not seek validation of an individual’s identification through alternative records. Only the verified signatures will count towards the thresholds set out above.
6.3 Petition submitted will be allocated to Monitoring Officer who will be responsible for the management of the progression of the petition in accordance with this Policy. The Monitoring Officer will be able to escalate the petition, if the subject of the petition is so significant that it would be appropriate for the issue to be considered by the next tier set out in paragraph 5.1.
6.4 If a petition is to be submitted to the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet or Council for consideration and debate, this will be done at the next available meeting.
6.5 The Petition Organiser will be invited to attend the relevant meeting and will be provided with 5 minutes at the commencement of the item to present the petition. Following which the Members of the relevant meeting will be given 30 minutes to debate the petition and the issues raised within it.
6.6 In considering the petition before the full Council, only a Cabinet Member or the relevant Committee Chairman will be permitted to move one of the following options:
(a) To move a motion that no further action is required;
(b) To move a motion that the petition is referred to Cabinet, Council or another Committee; or
(c) To move a motion that some other action is taken in response to the petition, as set out in paragraph 7.1.
6.7 If there is no majority vote in favour of the motion, then one of the other motions stated above must be moved. For a petition before Council any other Member of Council will be permitted to move one of the other motions under this paragraph.
6.8 The Councils Standing Order as set out in the Constitution relating to the rules of debate and motions, are applicable to the debate and motions relating to a petition.
6.9 The Petition Organiser will receive written confirmation of the decision and a copy will be published on the Councils website.
7. The Councils Response
7.1 Having considered the petition in accordance with this Policy, the Council may take any of the following actions in response to the petition:
(a) Take the action requested within the petition;
(b) Decline to take the action requested within the petition;
(c) Recommend that an enquiry is held into the issues raised within the petition;
(d) Undertake research into the issues raised within the petition;
(e) Carry out consultation into the issues raised within the petition; or
(f) Refer the petition to an external organisation for consideration;
(g) Hold a meeting with the Petition Organiser to reach a resolution.
7.2 A copy of the Councils response will be published on the Councils website.
8. Evidence from a Chief Officer
8.1 For petitions that request a Chief Officer gives evidence before the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee, the petition must relate to the Chief Officers role and cannot be about their personal circumstances or character.
8.2 The meeting at which the Chief Officer gives evidence will be held in public, and the Committee Members will be entitled to ask questions of the Chief Officer.
8.3 If appropriate, the Chief Officer will be entitled to invite other officers to attend in order to provide additional evidence.
8.4 After the meeting the Committee will submit a report to Cabinet setting out its findings and any recommendations it may wish to make in relation to the petition subject matter, in accordance with paragraph 7.1. The report will be considered at the next available meeting of Cabinet and a copy will be provided to the Petition Organiser.
9. Discounted Petitions
9.1 Some petitions cannot be considered under this Policy, and those listed below will be discounted by the Council:
(a) If a petition does not follow this Policy
(b) If the petition does not identify a Petition Organiser, the Council will normally contact the first signatory to the petition and ask them to agree to act as the Petition Organiser. If the first signatory is unable or unwilling to act as the Petition Organiser, then the petition will be discounted until such time as a Petition Organiser comes forward.
(c) if it is received within six months of another petition on the same matter. However, if two or more petitions on the same subject are received at a similar time the Petition Organisers may be contacted to determine if the petitions may be merged and considered together.
(d) those that the Monitoring Officer considers to be rude, frivolous, offensive, defamatory, scurrilous or vexatious;
(e) You can submit a petition as part of a formal consultation exercise. In this case it must be received before the date that the consultation closes or it may not be included as part of the Councils consideration of the consultation responses.
(f) petitions that relate to planning applications, planning policy or licensing matters, or where there is already an existing right of appeal or separate complaints process; or alternative arrangements in place;
(g) petitions about issues for which this Council is not responsible for and cannot influence;
(h) Petitions commenced through external online resources and petition websites;
(i) petitions relating to any individual or the personal circumstances of individual Councillors or employees of the Council or matters that should properly be dealt with under the Council’s complaints procedure; or
(j) A statutory petition such as a request for a referendum, which will be dealt with in accordance with the statutory provisions in place at that time.
9.2 If the Council decides that a petition is to be discounted the Petition Organiser will be informed and an explanation will be provided.
10. What you can do if you think your petition has not been dealt with in accordance with this policy?
10.1 If the petition Organiser feels that the Council have not dealt with the petition in accordance with this Policy, they may request that the Chairman of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee review the process that the Council has followed in responding to the petition.
10.2 The Petition Organiser should put their request in writing, listing the reasons for the request. The request must be made within 10 working days of receiving the Council’s written response.
10.3 A request will not be accepted if it is considered vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate.
10.4 The Petition Organiser will be informed in writing of the outcome of the review by the Chairman of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee within 10 working days of the request.
Updated: 3 November 2021
Page last updated: 04/08/2021