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Frequently asked questions - Petitions

What are the guidelines for submitting a petition?

Petitions submitted to the Council must relate to a function of the Council and include:-

  • a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition - it should state what action the petitioners wish the Council to take
  • the name and address and signature of any person supporting the petition - Petitions should be accompanied by your contact details, as the petition organiser, including your address. This is to enable us to contact you to explain how we will respond to the petition.

A minimum number of signatures to justify any action under this Scheme - This has been set at 50 but there are higher thresholds which will justify other types of action.

Your contact details, as the petition organiser, will not be placed on our website.

If there is any doubt about the identity of the petition organiser, we will contact signatories to the petition to agree who should act as the petition organiser.

Petitions which are considered to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate will not be accepted. If your 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.

What will the council do when it receives the petition?

An acknowledgement will be sent to you, as the petition organiser within 14 days of receiving the petition, advising what we plan to do with the petition and when we will make a further response. It will also be published on our website.

If we can do what the petition asks for, the acknowledgement may confirm that we have taken the action requested and the petition will be closed. If the petition has enough signatures to trigger a Council debate, or a senior officer giving evidence, then the acknowledgment will confirm this and advise when and where the meeting will take place. If the petition needs more investigation, we will outline the steps we plan to take.

If the petition applies to a planning or licensing application, is 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, other procedures apply. Further information on all these procedures and how you can express your views is available here:

We will  not take action on any petition which we consider to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate and will explain the reasons for this in our acknowledgement of the petition.

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. Whenever possible we will also publish all correspondence relating to the petition (all personal details will be removed).

How will the council respond to petitions?

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 Council or Committee meeting
  • holding an inquiry into the matter
  • undertaking research into the matter
  • holding a public meeting
  • holding a consultation
  • holding a meeting with petitioners
  • referring the petition for consideration by the Council’s Scrutiny Committee (responsible for scrutinising the work of the Council)
  • calling a referendum
  • writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition
  • responding in accordance with the Council’s Comments, Complaints and Compliments Procedure

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

If your petition is about something over which the Council has no direct control we will consider whether to make 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 services for which the Council is responsible here.

If your petition is about something that a different Council is responsible for we will consider the best method for responding to it. It might consist of simply forwarding the petition to the other Council, but could involve other steps. In any event we will always notify you of the action we have taken.

How many signatures need to be collected for action to be taken?

Petitions with between 50 and 199 signatures will be considered as part of Stage 3 of the Council’s published Comments, Complaints and Compliments Procedure.

Petition organisers will receive a response from the appropriate Executive Director.

Petitions with between 200 and 3,999 signatures (unless they are asking for a senior Council officer to give evidence at a public meeting) will be considered in the first instance by the Council’s Senior Management Team (comprising the Chief Executive and two Executive Directors). The Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, and, if appropriate, Committee Chairman and Lead Member, will be advised of the petition at the time of submission.

The action taken will be notified to all Members of the Council for information as well as the petition organiser and details will appear on the Council’s website. 

If a petition contains more than 4,000 signatures it will be debated by the full Council unless it is a petition asking for a senior Council officer to give evidence at a public meeting. This means that the issue raised in the petition will be discussed at a meeting which all councillors can attend. The petition organiser will be given three minutes to present the petition at the meeting and the petition will then be discussed by councillors. The Council will decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting. It 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. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of this decision. This confirmation will also be published on our website.

Can I ask for a council officer to give evidence?

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 councillors to enable them to make a particular decision.

If your petition contains at least 2000 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee. The senior staff that can be called to give evidence are:-

  • Chief Executive (Head of the Paid Service)
  • Executive Director and Monitoring Officer
  • Chief Finance Officer
  • Head of Customer and Community Services
  • Head of Environmental Services
  • Head of ICT
  • Head of Planning Services
  • Head of Resources and Organisational Development.

You should be aware that the 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.

Committee members will ask the questions at this meeting, but you will be able to suggest questions to the chair of the Committee by contacting memberservices@east-northamptonshire.gov.uk up to three working days before the meeting.

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

If you feel that we have not dealt with your petition properly, you, as petition organiser, have the right to request that the Council’s Scrutiny Committee review the steps that the Council has taken in response to your petition.

The Committee will consider your request at the next appropriate meeting.

Should the Committee determine we have not dealt with your petition appropriately, it may use any of its powers to deal with the matter. These powers include instigating an investigation, making recommendations to the appropriate Committee or Officer and arranging for the matter to be considered at a meeting of the full Council.

Once the appeal has been considered you will be informed of the results within seven working days. The results of the review will also be published on our website.

More information

  1. East Northamptonshire Petitions Scheme
  2. 2013 - Notice of verification number
  3. Past Petitions
  4. Frequently asked questions - Petitions (you are here)