Have your say
Breckland Council Petitions Scheme
The council welcomes petitions and recognises that petitions are one way in which people can let us know their concerns. All petitions sent or presented to the council will receive an acknowledgement from the council within 10 working days of receipt. This acknowledgement will set out what we plan to do with the petition. We will treat something as a petition if it is identified as being a petition, or if it seems to us that it is intended to be a petition.
Paper petitions can be sent to: Breckland Council, Elizabeth House, Dereham, Norfolk NR19 1EE
Or be created, signed and submitted online by following this link.Submit e-Petition
Petitions can also be presented to a meeting of the council. These meetings take place on a six weekly basis, dates and times can be found on ourwebsite . If you would like to present your petition to the council, or would like your councillor or someone else to present it on your behalf, please contact Democraticservices@breckland.gov.uk at least ten working days before the meeting and they will explain the process. If your petition has received 1,500 signatures or more it will also be scheduled for a council debate and if this is the case we will let you know whether this will happen at the same meeting or a later meeting of the council.
What are the guidelines for submitting a petition?
Petitions submitted to the council must 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 contact details, including an address, for the petition organiser. This is the person we will contact to explain how we will respond to the petition. The contact details of the petition organiser will not be placed on the website. If the petition does not identify a 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. In the period immediately before an election or referendum we may need to deal with your petition differently. If this is the case we will explain the reasons and discuss the revised timescale which will apply. If a 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 my petition?
An acknowledgement will be sent to the petition organiser within 10 working days of receiving the petition. It will let them know what we plan to do with the petition and when they can expect to hear from us again. It will also be published on our website.
If we can do what your 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 acknowledgement will confirm this and tell you when and where the meeting will take place. If the petition needs more investigation, we will tell you the steps we plan to take.
Other procedures apply if the petition:
- Applies to a planning or licensing application.
- Is a statutory petition (for example requesting a referendum on having an elected mayor).
- Is on a matter where there is already an existing right of appeal, such as council tax banding and non-domestic rates.
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). When you sign an e-petition you can elect to receive this information by email. We will not send you anything which is not relevant to the e-petition you have signed, unless you choose to receive other emails from us.
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 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 Overview and Scrutiny Commission*.
- Calling a referendum.
- Writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition.
*The Overview and Scrutiny Commission is a committee of councillors who are responsible for scrutinising the work of the council. In other words, the Commission has the power to hold the council's decision makers to account.
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 (for example the local railway or hospital) we will consider making 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.
If your petition is about something that a different council is responsible for we will give consideration to what the best method is for responding to it. This 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.
Full council debates
If a petition contains at least 1,500 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 council will endeavour to consider the petition at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will then take place at the following meeting. The petition organiser will be given five minutes to present the petition at the meeting and the petition will then be discussed by councillors for a maximum of 15 minutes. The council will decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting. They 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. Where the issue is one on which the council executive are required to make the final decision, the council will decide whether to make recommendations to inform that decision. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of this decision. This confirmation will also be published on our website.
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 members to enable them to make a particular decision.
If your petition contains at least 750 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the council's Overview and Scrutiny Commission. You should be aware that the Commission 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. The committee may also decide to call the relevant councillor to attend the meeting. Commission members will ask the questions at this meeting, but you will be able to suggest questions to the chair of the committee by contacting the Member Services Team up to three working days before the meeting.
The council welcomes e-petitions which are created and submitted through our website (browse current and completed e-petitions ). E-petitions must follow the same guidelines as paper petitions.
The petition organiser will need to provide us with their name, postal address and email address. You will also need to decide how long you would like your petition to be open for signatures. Most petitions run for six months, but you can choose a shorter or longer timeframe, up to a maximum of 12 months.
When you create an e-petition, it may take five working days before it is published online. This is because we have to check that the content of your petition is suitable before it is made available for signature.
If we feel we cannot publish your petition for some reason, we will contact you within this time to explain. You will be able to change and resubmit your petition if you wish. If you do not do this within ten working days, a summary of the petition and the reason why it has not been accepted will be published under the 'rejected petitions' section of the website.
When you submit an e-petition you will receive an acknowledgement within ten working days. If you would like to present your e-petition to a meeting of the council, please contact email@example.com within 10 working days of receipt of the acknowledgement.
A petition acknowledgement and response will be emailed to everyone who has signed the e-petition and elected to receive this information. The acknowledgement and response will also be published on this website.
How do I sign an e-petition?
You can see all the e-petitions currently available for signature using the link in the previous section.
When you sign an e-petition you will be asked to provide your name, your postcode and a valid email address. When you have submitted this information an email will be sent to the address you provided. This email will include a link that you must click on in order to confirm the email address is valid. Once this step is complete your 'signature' will be added to the petition. People visiting the e-petition will be able to see your name in the list of those who have signed it, but your contact details will not be visible.
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, the petition organiser has the right to request that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission review the steps that the council has taken. It is helpful to everyone, and can improve the prospects for a review if the petition organiser gives a short explanation of the reasons why the council's response is not considered to be adequate.
The Commission will endeavour to consider your request at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will take place at the following meeting. Should the committee determine we have not dealt with your petition adequately, it may use any of its powers to deal with the matter. These powers include instigating an investigation, making recommendations to the council executive and arranging for the matter to be considered at a meeting of the full council.
Once the appeal has been considered the petition organiser will be informed of the results within five working days. The results of the review will also be published on our website.
Terms and Conditions
Petitioners may freely disagree with the council or call for changes of policy. We will not attempt to exclude critical views and decisions to accept or reject will not be made on a party political basis.
However, to protect this service from abuse, petitions should meet the following basic criteria:
- A title or subject of the petition.
- A short statement saying what the petition is about and stating the action you wish the council to take.
- It must have a minimum of 20 signatures of people who live, work or study in the Breckland district, otherwise the council reserves the right not to respond to it in accordance with our petition scheme.
- To trigger a debate at council your petition must contain at least 1,500 signatures.
- If you want a senior council officer to answer questions about matters raised in your petition at a meeting of the council's Overview & Scrutiny Commission, then it must contain at least 750 signatures and give grounds for the request.
- The name of the person submitting the petition (known as the petition organiser).
- The contact address of the petition organiser (which will be used by us for any communications over the petition).
- It must have a name and address for any person signing the petition.
- An e-petition must use the council's online petition tool and each signatory must supply an email address in addition to a postal address.
- The start and end dates for collecting signatures to the petition must also be specified in advance for e-petitions.
We will not deal with petitions that:
- Include a matter which in our view is vexatious, abusive, is the subject of ongoing legal action or contains otherwise inappropriate comments, meaning profanity or other insults.
- Do not comply with data protection, libel, equalities and anti-discrimination legislation.
- Concern employment matters for Breckland staff.
We reserve the right not to take action on:
- Party political material.
- Information which may be protected by an injunction or court order.
- Material which is potentially confidential, commercially sensitive or which may cause personal distress or loss.
- Any commercial endorsement, promotion of any product, service or publication.
- The names of individual officers of public bodies, unless they are part of the senior management of those organisations.
- The names of family members of elected representatives or officials of public bodies.
- The names of individuals, or information where they may be identified, in relation to criminal accusations.
- Language which is intemperate or provocative. This is language to which people reading it could reasonably take offence because we believe it is possible to petition for anything politely.
- Petitions that are very similar to and/or overlap with an existing petition.
- Statements that don't actually request any action.
- Wording that is impossible to understand.
- Statements that amount to advertisements.
- Petitions which are solely intended to be jocular.
- Issues for which a petition is not the appropriate channel (such as correspondence about a personal issue).
- Freedom of Information or Environmental Information requests.
- During politically sensitive periods, such as just before an election, we have to be extra careful to ensure that all political parties enjoy a level playing field. At such times, if your petition contains politically controversial material we may decide not to accept it or defer consideration of it until after the election. If this is the case we will explain the reasons and the revised timescale which will apply.
Last updated: 10/05/2023 15:44:56