As Fraser Henderson noted last week, the UK Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has launched a consultation on the e-petitions process for English councils. This consultation runs for 12 weeks from Wednesday 2 December 2009 until Wednesday 24 February 2010.
Under recent legislation, councils in England & Wales will have a duty to act, on behalf of local people, to address concerns about under-performing services across the board. As part of a response, petitions with a significant level of support will also trigger a debate of the full council or require a senior officer to have to attend the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee to answer questions. Every council will have to set out clearly how local people can submit both paper and electronic petitions so that people know how they can express their views.
Local authorities have a wide range of powers and influence at their disposal to respond to issues raised in petitions. All councils receive petitions, and some of them deal with them well. However a survey by the LGA found that only 28 per cent of councils guarantee an automatic response to petitions.
The purpose of the petitions provision is to bring the standards of all councils up to those of the best, and these guidelines are intended to embody best practice.
The EuroPetition angle
E-petitioning is being implemented in England independantly of EuroPetition, albeit with some councils using EuroPetition system, so some of the details and referecnes to legislation are tailored to the specific needs of local authorities in England.
However, the draft ‘Model Petition Scheme’ contained in Appendix A could well be a basis for establishing best practice across Europe and I’m sure we’ll be taking it into account.
This post is based on a news item at the EuroPetition site.