A petition is a formal written document which is submitted to an authority (such as Bury Council) to express a view or concern. It can be an effective way of highlighting a local issue or cause you feel deserves recognition and action.
What matters can a petition be used for?
A petition can be used to raise the awareness and the support of people who live, work or study in Bury about a local issue or it can be used for a major issue affecting the whole borough.
Petition subjects can include:
Issues that affect the Borough of Bury or its communities, as long as Bury Council has some degree of influence in the matter.
Any matter relating to the improvement in the economic, social or environmental well-being of the borough to which any of the Council's partners could contribute.
Who can start or sign a petition?
A petition can be organised and started by any person living, working or studying within Bury (including under-18s).
Details of the person signing should include:
An address in Bury (home, place of work or study).
What types of petition are there?
There are three types of petition:
Ordinary petitions - these petitions will contain at least 50 signatures, although the Council will use its discretion where there are fewer than 50 signatures where there is clear local support for action.
Petitions to hold a Council officer to account - these petitions will contain at least 1500 signatures and call for evidence to be given by a senior Council employee at a public meeting about something they are responsible for. The senior Council employees that can be called to give evidence are as follows:
Deputy Chief Executive;
Assistant Chief Executive;
Executive Director Environmental and Development Services;
Executive Director Children and Young People's Services;
Executive Director of Adult Social Services.
Petitions calling for a debate - these petitions will contain at least 2500 signatures or more and will be debated by the full Council. The petition organiser will be given five minutes to present their petition at the meeting this will be followed by a discussion by Councillors for fifteen minutes and then a decision will be taken on how to respond to the petition request. This could include:
Taking action as requested in the petition;
Not taking the action requested for the reasons put forward in the Council debate;
Referring the issue to the Leader/Cabinet Member;
Commissioning further investigation.
Are there petitions which the Council will not accept?
Bury Council will treat anything identifying itself as a petition in good faith and in a positive way. It should be noted that some petition subjects may not be accepted if they are considered to be "vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate." In this situation an acknowledgement will be issued and an explanation provided as to why the Council will not be taking action. There will be a right of review available in these circumstances.
There is no rigid test or definition as to what is inappropriate, but the key question is whether the request and/or content is likely to cause distress, disruption or irritation, without any proper or justified cause. In most cases it should be the subject of the petition, rather than the personality of the petitioners or the manner in which the issue is supported, that is the deciding factor.
There are some issues that are excluded from the petitions provisions, these include:
If the petition applies to a planning or licensing application;
It is a statutory petition (requesting a referendum on having an elected mayor);
Where there is an existing right of appeal, such as council tax banding and non-domestic rates;
An ongoing legal matter.
Petitions submitted during the period immediately before an election or referendum will need to be treated differently and this will be explained in the acknowledgement.
If a petition does not follow the guidelines set out, the council may decide not to do anything with it and the reasons for this will be set out in the Council response.
How will the Council respond to petitions?
The Council will respond to you on how your petition will be dealt with and any action to be taken.
The 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 meeting;
Holding an inquiry into the matter;
Undertaking research into the matter;
Holding a public meeting;
Holding a consultation;
Holding a meeting with the petitioners;
Referring the petition for consideration by the council's Scrutiny committee (internal);
Calling a referendum;
Writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition.
or it can be handed in at a Council office within the borough.
The Council is in the process of developing an online/electronic petition facility which will be available from 15 December 2010.
What issues can a petition relate to?
Bury Council's petition arrangements allow the public to submit a petition in relation to any function of the Council. These can include:
Local facilities and amenities;
Schools and healthcare.
Bury Council has key interests across the borough that, although may not be in its direct area of responsibility, still affect the local area. On this basis Bury Council will respond to petitions which relate to the economic, social or environmental well-being of the authority's area where partner organisations are involved as well as petitions relating to its own functions.
If a petition relates to something which the council has no direct control (for example a hospital or railway), the council will consider making representations on behalf of the community to the relevant body. The council works with a large number of local partners, such as Greater Manchester Police and health bodies; and where possible will work with these partners to respond to the petition.
What information should a petition contain?
A petition should contain a clear, concise statement covering the subject of the petition, including:
What action the petitioners wish the council to take and call for the council to take action;
A name and signature and the address in Bury (home, work or place of study) of any person supporting the petition;
Details of how long the petition is to run for;
Contact details of the petition organiser.
What happens after the petition is submitted?
When the council receives a paper petition, an acknowledgement will be issued within 10 working days. A petition can be presented at the council offices or you can arrange to present it at a council meeting by contacting Democratic Services within 10 working days of the date of the meeting.
A further letter will be issued to inform the organiser about how the issue raised by the petition will be addressed.
What do I do if I feel my petition has not been dealt with properly?
If you feel your petition hasn't been dealt with properly, the organiser has the right to request that the council's Overview Management Committee to review the steps the council has taken in response to your petition. A request to the Overview Management Committee will need to include reasons for the review. The outcome of the review may involve an investigation, making recommendations to the Leader/Cabinet Member or referring the matter to a meeting of the Council.
The petition organiser will be informed of the outcome of the decision within seven days.