The Monitoring Officer submitted a report, seeking Council approval and adoption of the Petition Scheme attached thereto at Appendix 1.
The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 received Royal Assent on 20 January 2021 and places specific duties on local authorities including, under Section 42, the duty to make a Petition Scheme including provision of a facility for electronic petitions (e-petitions). This provision comes into force in May 2022.
Under the 2021 Act, she explained that the Council must publish a Scheme setting out how it intends to handle and respond to petitions.
The Monitoring Officer explained, that petitioning is one way that individuals, community groups and organisations can participate in the democratic process, by raising issues of public concern with the Council and allowing Elected Members to consider the need for change within the County Borough. It is acknowledged that petitions can have positive outcomes that lead to change or inform debate.
The Scheme attached at Appendix 1 (to the report), demonstrated this by setting out that petitions received from those who are resident, working or studying in the Borough, regardless of the number of signatures, will receive a response providing they follow the guidelines set out in the Scheme. The purpose of this Scheme is to establish a clear process for petitions submitted to the Council to be handled in accordance with the relevant legislation.
The Scheme provides that if a petition has received more than 750 signatures the petition will be considered at a meeting of the full Council. The petition organiser will be informed in writing about when the debate will be held and with sufficient notice to enable their attendance.
The Council will host an e-petition facility on its website, provided by Mod.gov, which is the most widely used local authority committee management system. The Scheme stipulates that e-petitions must follow the same guidelines as paper petitions. An e-petition organiser must provide their name, address, a valid postcode and email address. The same information is required for any person supporting the petition, the Monitoring Officer added.
To conclude her report, the Monitoring Officer advised that in accordance with the 2021 Act, the Council must review the Scheme from time to time and, if it considers it appropriate, revise the Scheme. If the Council revises or replaces a Scheme, the revised or new Scheme will be published on the Council’s website.
A Member referred to page 145 of the report and asked why a petitioners address was required on future e:petitions.
The Monitoring Officer confirmed that some of the contents of e:petitions were subject to legislative requirements, however, the e:petition content could be reviewed in future and modified accordingly if Members felt there may be a future requirement to do this.
A Member was aware that e:petitions could be submitted through a system known as Change.Org and he asked if the Council could accept this through this method as well as through the Council’s own database system of Modern.Gov.
The Monitoring Officer did not believe that these two systems could be integrated, but she advised that she would check with the Council’s ICT and Democratic Services sections, to establish if this was achievable and come back to the Member accordingly, outside of the meeting.
A Member asked if a there was both a paper and electronic version of the same petition, could these be submitted jointly as one.
The Monitoring Officer confirmed that this would be accommodated.
A Member asked if for privacy reasons, a petitioner did not provide their address, would they be able to sign an e:petition.
The Monitoring Officer confirmed that the Policy did have some discretion here, but the main reason for a signatory providing their address, was to ensure they were a valid signatory as opposed to a fake ‘added one.’
RESOLVED: That Council approved and adopted the Petition Scheme attached at Appendix 1 to the report.